Congress Shouldn't Settle for the President's Opening Offer on NSA Reform

This is the first post in a three-part series.

Less than a year after the NSA's dragnet surveillance of Americans was first exposed to public scrutiny, the president has formally issued a proposal to end the bulk collection of our phone records. In this three-part series, the ACLU analyzes whether the president’s proposal goes far enough, particularly when there's already strong bipartisan legislation in Congress that would end all bulk collection for good, the USA FREEDOM Act.

Before the end of this week, President Obama will announce that he supports ending the bulk collection of Americans' phone records. He will endorse a more targeted approach that requires the government to get a court order for specific phone numbers or accounts and ask Congress to pass legislation to bind his and future administrations' hands to this process.

This is an important first step for the protection of our phone records, but what about our Internet, financial, medical, political, library, or other records? These are records that are just as sensitive as our phone records, if not more so: They reflect where we go, the people we know, the churches and political parties we belong to, how we spend our money, and the doctors we see.

Congress should consider the president's proposal as just an opening offer. They should then make a strong counteroffer to extend these sorts of privacy protections across the board to all of our data. Actually, there's already a way Congress can do this; it does not need to start from scratch.

It's called the USA FREEDOM Act.

Introduced by original PATRIOT Act authors Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill would protect not only phone records under section 215 of the Patriot Act – but all records, under all sections of the Patriot Act – as well as amend the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that permits international spying. With over 160 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and Senate, the Judiciary Committees should get to work on it immediately and get it to the floor for a vote. The American people deserve nothing less.

Remember, while the phone records program is the government's most notorious spying program, it's probably not its most invasive one. Let's make sure that the momentum we have going for reform now isn't cut short and wasted on half measures that fail to bury all bulk collection for good.

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Anonymous

You have to be absolutely kidding me. The fact that they're "suddenly acquiescent" shocks the living HELL out of ME. They've been disturbingly hostile and irascible on everything else he's ever suggested, including the Jobs Act, which is why I stopped voting for the bastards. I was fully Republican before 2012 but not after I saw the little show THEY put on, denying everything he ever suggested and even shutting down the government to get their little way on everything. Now I think they're mentally ill and don't care if they DON'T have "papers to prove it," which you're not allowed to have to work in government.
If they're all of a sudden in cahoots with him, it's b/c he decided he was going to be totally Republican about the issue and treat people like days-old garbage - and they have the nerve to be disgusted and angry when he wants what Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton BOTH wanted, which was health care for all the citizens of a region whether they could afford it or not. Or wants to find the terrorists associated with killing someone in my family and all those other people. They don't even care that he found Osama bin Laden, and that's the only other thing that made my daughter, HIS daughter, feel even a morsel of solace in this whole thing.

from a person who voted for George Bush Senior, Bush Junior and Steve Chabot - and who still likes only one of those people

For the record, I was NEVER EVER the kind of Republicans the entire party has morphed into, which I personally believe isn't even Republican at ALL anymore. It's plutocrat or Fascist wanna-be but nothing even remotely Republican

from Richard, V...

Incidentally, and for curiosity's sake, I wonder why you people appear to place so much stock in what Mr. Snowden thinks of the whole NSA thing. He's not some pundit.
My thoughts of Snowden's statement are this: I prefer to find an impartial person's viewpoint. I think he's the last person who can be impartial about it. Impartial meaning he can see both sides of an issue and acknowledge that another side - even if he disagrees with it - does exist.

A personal example of being impartial would be that I can understand why people felt they had to protest Vietnam (I'm a veteran by force of the government's will over the people; I think I know about the detriment of government interference at LEAST as well as Snowden) but not necessarily agree with how the protesters decided to demonstrate their disillusionment with Big Brother by taking out their rage on the returning soldiers - throwing eggs and tomatoes and spit at us, calling us baby killers - instead of doing that to the people I call the war pigs of the power. Which came from the famous song: "no more war pigs of the power, hand of God has struck the hour."

I see that another side exists but I disagree that I'm the person who deserved the verbal (and sometimes physical) wrath from it. I was once attacked by three guys who hated veterans and when I defended myself found myself in almost more trouble than they were. If my family hadn't been lucky enough to afford an attorney besides the public defender I still believe I would have suffered the consequences for the public's outcry over Vietnam.

In summary: I'm interested in ACLU's view of the NSA, b/c I think they're more professional about their demonstration. I'm not completely convinced that both theirs and Snowden's views are exact matches and will not assume they are without further evidence than I have now, which is scant at best.
Maybe I'll read Mr. Snowden's statement later - much later. Until then I'm willing to wait to discover his views of the matter.

Anonymous

I have an idea. If you guys or whoever is writing this thinks they know so well what Congress should do, why don't you run for Congress yourself and then do it? Hell, at this point nobody can be WORSE than the 112, 113 and 114 Congress has been, especially since someone gave Michelle Bachmann Intelligence Committee status - what a laugh THAT is - I bet GOOFY or Disney's dog PLUTO could serve as a better "intelligence selectman than BACHmann" and her gay-hating, Muslim-hating, anti-everything that's not Christian self has done.
The woman disliked Jan Brewer for striking down that bad business law.
She's lower than pond scum. Bachmann I mean. Brewer is BETTER than Bachmann and I'm not THAT crazy about Jan Brewer.

I'm not being all that sarcastic. I'd love it to death if the old crop was ditched for a new crop of Congress members. All except Steve Chabot. He at least voted FOR the Jobs Act of 2011 and 12.

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