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Lawmakers Threaten Legal Basis of NSA Surveillance 206

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-don't-be-grandstanding dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "The author of the Patriot Act has warned that the legal justification for the NSA's wholesale domestic surveillance program will disappear next summer if the White House doesn't restrict the way the NSA uses its power. Section 215 of the Patriot Act will expire during the summer of 2015 and will not be renewed unless the White House changes the shocking scale of the surveillance programs for which the National Security Administration uses the authorization, according to James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), an original author of the Patriot Act and its two reauthorizations, stated Washington insider-news source The Hill. 'Unless Section 215 gets fixed, you, Mr. Cole, and the intelligence community will get absolutely nothing, because I am confident there are not the votes in this Congress to reauthorize it,' Sensenbrenner warned Deputy Attorney General James Cole during the Feb. 4 hearing. Provisions of Section 215, which allows the NSA to collect metadata about phone calls made within the U.S., give the government a 'very useful tool' to track connections among Americans that might be relevant to counterterrorism investigations, Cole told the House Judiciary Committee. The scale of the surveillance and lengths to which the NSA has pushed its limits was a "shock" according to Sensenbrenner, who also wrote the USA Freedom Act, a bill to restrict the scope of both Section 215 and the NSA programs, which has attracted 130 co-sponsors. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate."
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Lawmakers Threaten Legal Basis of NSA Surveillance

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  • Re:Fuck the beta (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chebucto (992517) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @08:25PM (#46168463) Homepage

    Beta must die

  • Re:Empty threat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lgw (121541) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @08:35PM (#46168563) Journal

    The Republican bloc is unlikely to do anything that would curb military or intelligence related activities.

    You haven't been paying attention. The Republicans are up in arms over this, with the RNC calling the NSAs activities straight up unconstitutional and calling for their end with no mention of terrorism nor other weasel wording.

  • Re:first (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buswolley (591500) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @08:54PM (#46168713) Journal
    I'd like to participate in this article. Seems interesting. Instead Im wasting my time trying to make Dice realize that they are messing up
  • Re:And this is why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @08:57PM (#46168745) Homepage

    That's only useful in a specific case, though, where one piece of legislation is the sole authorization for a government action. That's pretty rare (to the point where I doubt this is even such a case).

    For everything else, having an expiration date means that the actual state of the law would change even more than it does now, so everybody has to spend more money and work even harder just to make sure that they're still in compliance with the newly-revised rules that are subtly different that the previous rules, because the politicians wanted to look like they were actively improving things.

    Similarly, the increased volatility of the law means that legal precedent is also more volatile, so the cost of a court case gets worse as there's more room to argue about how a rule's expiration affects previous judgments. While a criminal case is waiting for the court to settle, the legality of the alleged crime could even change, especially if it's politically beneficial for the legislators to override the judicial branch.

    Mandatory expiration dates for legislation fall into the large category of "ideas that cause more problems than they solve".

  • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @09:01PM (#46168775)

    What about all the other Democrats that pushed through the last reauthorization?

    The scale of the surveillance and lengths to which the NSA has pushed its limits was a "shock" according to Sensenbrenner, who also wrote the USA Freedom Act, a bill to restrict the scope of both Section 215 and the NSA programs, which has attracted 130 co-sponsors.

    The author of the Patriot act has seen the light, and yet you do nothing but call him names?

    What has YOUR guy been doing all this time? Oh yeah, reauthorizing it year after year. [wikipedia.org]

    How can you be so ignorant of the truth, yet so quick to post insults?

  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @09:22PM (#46168939)

    It may make sense to have an automatic expiration on bills like the PATRIOT ACT, but as a general rule for law that would result in complete chaos.

    Actually: I would favor a constitutional requirement, that every new tax, revenue bill, regulation, OR grant of rights to any government entity has to be written so that the bill must be re-authorized or automatically expire by the house a minimum of three times, no sooner than 2 years after the original bill was passed, no longer than 6 years, AND at least 3 of the required re-authorizations separated by a minimum of 14 months.

    That way, if the current session of congress does something stupid --- the NEXT congress has to continue to support it after the next two elections, OR the default is that the new experimental law goes away.

  • by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @09:47PM (#46169137)

    And if Congress decides that the NSA gets a budget of $0?

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