Congressional Momentum Against NSA Spying Continues to Grow

To hear some in the press tell it, Congress could not be more indifferent to the recent revelations that the NSA is collecting all of the phone records of all law-abiding Americans. This isn't entirely an unfair conclusion to draw, however rash. Congress, after all, passed the unconstitutional Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act, while the Intelligence Committees whose job it is to ensure the intelligence community doesn't violate our rights, allowed the NSA to do just that.

But the press, and the American people, shouldn't write off Congress just yet: a civil-libertarian energy is stirring.

Since the Guardian broke the story about the NSA's bulk collection of innocent Americans' call records, many members of Congress have been pushing back at blanket government surveillance. They've made statement after statement criticizing the government's broad collection programs. Some have even argued there is no evidence these programs have thwarted attacks. But most tellingly, legislators are filing legislation left and right to compel more disclosure about these programs and rein them in. The bills are coming from both Democrats and Republicans, including members who voted for the Patriot Act in the past but feel misled about how it's been used.

In little less than 3 weeks, six bipartisan pieces of legislation to rollback NSA spying have been introduced:

  • The LIBERT-E Act (H.R. 2399)—from Reps. Conyers (D-Mich.), Amash (R-Mich.), and 31 other bipartisan cosponsors—would limit Section 215 of the Patriot Act and force disclosure of the secret court orders and/or legal reasoning behind all of these surveillance programs.
  • The Ending Secret Law Act (S. 1130 and H.R. 2475)—sponsored by Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Lee (R-Utah) and 10 others in the Senate and Reps Schiff (D-Calif.), Rokita (R-Idaho) and five others in the House—forces the administration to release the secret court orders that have interpreted this statute and our constitutional rights. If disclosure would harm national security, the attorney general would have to write and release an unclassified summary of the secret court orders or explain why they can't. This language got 37 "yes" votes on the Senate floor during the FISA debate this past December.
  • S. 1182—from Sens. Udall (D-Colo.), Merkley, and five other bipartisan Senators—would tighten the requirements for getting a Patriot Section 215 order.
  • The Restore Our Privacy Act (S. 1168) from Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) would require the government to state with specific and articulable facts why each thing sought is relevant to an investigation.
  • The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act (S. 1037), introduced by Sen. Paul (R-Ky.), would direct the government to interpret the Fourth Amendment as prohibiting searches of phone records without a warrant based on probable cause in both intelligence and criminal investigations.
  • And yesterday Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act based on his past Patriot Act reform bills to rein in the Patriot Act and increase transparency.

Does this sound like a Congress completely unconcerned about the NSA spying revelations? Congress has a lot to make up for, but at least they're getting started.

Learn more about government surveillance and other civil liberties issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Add a comment (3)
Read the Terms of Use


Snowden is a true American hero! The foreigner President Obama and henchmen Feinstein, Pelosi, Reed, Boehner, King are traitors for scrapping America's constitution. We will dedicate ourselves to electing republican Rand Paul President of US and restoring our constitution, privacy, economy, health, and ending the illegal Patriot Act, FISA star chamber. America does not have liberty because our elected leaders have embraced Tyranny, Torture, and 3rd Reich brutality of NSA and their hired thugs! Are we allowed to spit on Obama and Feinstein and Boehner for treason and lies and illegal wars and autism epidemic and Alzheimer's epidemic via contaminated vaccines using aborted human fetal cell lines with DNA fragments the same substrate length as the vaccinated victim of 450 bp which created an environmental trigger disrupting the immune system and robbing the body of protective Glutathione and Metallothionein which turned toxic mercury into the exotic killer of brain neuron degeneration leaving a crippled autistic 6 million children? President Barack Hussein Obama and these Congressional traitors just abandoned the 6 million vaccine injured autistic children by excluding them from Obamacare because each autism child requires $3.2 million healthcare bill and Obamacare can not afford that. How are the parents going to afford the $3.2 million (CDC data) healthcare cost?
It is not too late to rebel against terrorist foreigner Obama and henchman Pelosi and Feinstein. We can march and demand or secede from the union or hold a new constitutional convention and scrap Congress and FISA star chamber and Obama! Snowden is a true American hero! We could elect him to Congress with a $BILLION pension!

Rand Paul for President. Where is Obama's birth certificate so we can ship him out. All you NSA workers must report back to work and don't forget to swear allegiance to Obama before entering gate. You are being watched and guards have loaded guns with dum dums.


He told us so? Why, so he might have. So might we have known for ourselves; I am not so alarmed that it was done as bemused at the outrage of people, smart people, who could and should have foreseen that it would be done. Here is a truth: A thing once shown to be possible and achievable is inevitable. Electronically, our internet communications are probably not a great deal more secure than Post-It (TM) notes on a mall bulletin board.

Should we protest, and demand that the board be removed? Well we might, if we did not so much rely on what we can do using it. There is a historical parallel; the train made it possible to travel quickly and the telegraph made it possible for law enforcement in one part of the country to send ahead to a distant agency the names of a fugitives from justice and the trains they took. Previously, one's locale and intentions had been relatively hard to know and communicate, but we grew to live with the train and the telegraph (and the telephone, from which the current wiretap laws come) and so we came to accept their intrusions.

I predict we will come to accept these. Practically, we can never know a thing successfully kept secret. Politically, we have already succumbed to secret National Security Letters and secret no-fly lists. Having cut the ground out from under our own feet, what shall we do next? Hire private couriers to carry handwritten letters under cover of travel or commerce? Generate and use one-time pads? Even a real spy or secret agent would know that slinking around draws attention!

For a walk
My neighbor was out gardening,
Red eyes; her man
Had disappeared one night
She said
And shook her head.
He just went, she cried,
For a walk.
And would not talk.
I say hello to the cop
On the street, tell him
I'm going to shop
Get something sweet
A paper and a book
Some food;
Stop by the park,
I'm in the mood
He smiles, reminds me not to stay
Too late, and I agree,
Then shift to drive, thinking of tea .
I see him lift the radio
To tell the station where I'll go.
I'll look at all the trees, I think
First hit the bar, and get a drink
Then dessert too, a change of plan
Nothing too drastic, understand.
I turn down to the bar and brew,
See cars behind, with red and blue
Lights shining in my guilty eye.
I pull it over, to the side.
"We thought you would be going downtown;
Don't make us worry, driving 'round!"
I mutter my apology
For being foolish, carelessly;
He lets me be and waves me back
Onto the preappointed track.
My neighbor stands still in her door,
She doesn't garden, any more;
He went, she says again, in pain
Out for a walk.
There was no rain
He didn't do a thing except…
She doesn't want to talk.
He'd only gone.
For a walk.
I turn the radio on to hear
About the peace we've bought
Too dear.
And think how when I was a child
I ran around like someone wild,
The world a brand new toy for me
To play with, back when I was free.
The years I think on, taking stock.
But now? I'm going
For a walk.
© Cortland Richmond


Ok .... what hospital did you check yourself out from??

Sign Up for Breaking News