Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner write: In the days and weeks following Sept. 11, 2001, we were the primary authors of the USA PATRIOT Act — legislation that responded to those attacks by enhancing the government’s ability to gather information to prevent terrorism. Some checks and balances that were proposed then were included in the final bill; others were not. The PATRIOT Act has been much debated these past 12 years, and we have not always been on the same side of those debates. But whatever our differences may have been in the past, we strongly agree that the dragnet collection of millions of Americans’ phone records every day — whether they have any connection at all to terrorism — goes far beyond what Congress envisioned or intended to authorize. More important, we agree it must stop.
Over the past five months, we have seen a slow trickle of additional disclosures that have only added to our concerns. Since the revelation that the National Security Agency is collecting the details of Americans’ phone calls on an unprecedented scale, it has come out that the government searches the content of huge troves of emails, collects in bulk the address books from email accounts and social networking sites, at least temporarily collected geolocation data from our cellphones, committed thousands of privacy violations and made substantial misrepresentations to courts and Congress.
Not only do many of these programs raise serious legal questions, they have come at a high cost to Americans’ privacy rights, business interests and standing in the international community. It is time for a new approach.
On Tuesday we will introduce bicameral, bipartisan legislation that will put an end to the National Security Agency’s indiscriminate collection of personal information. Our proposal, the USA FREEDOM Act, provides stronger privacy safeguards with respect to a range of government surveillance programs. [Continue reading…]