Thousands of privacy violations made by the NSA is making Congress reconsider the Patriot Act. South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy recently said that he wouldn’t vote for its reauthorization.
According to the Washington Post, the NSA has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and top secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to UK’s The Guardian newspaper.
Recently, Congressman Trey Gowdy appeared on the Fox News Channel. FoxNews.com reporter Dana Perino asked the congressman about his constituents’ concerns: “You voted for the legislation that was put forward that would have adjusted the NSA funding and — to try to do something about what is perceived by some as privacy violations. Since you’ve been home on the August break, are you hearing about this from people? Like, what — is this on top of mind for them, that they want this issue addressed?”
Gowdy responds, “Yes, ma’am. And I’m hearing about it, because I’m a former prosecutor who usually balances the scale towards public safety. I voted for the Patriot Act reauthorization. I heard about that when I came back home. In fact, I helped some of the leaders in Congress convince colleagues a year ago to vote for the reauthorization. But I’m not going to do it anymore. And Dana, I’m not going to do it anymore because the author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, says it’s being used a way that he never envisioned.”
According to Gowdy, his voters are connecting with him and sharing their concerns: “I had a town hall last night, and if I had to tell you the dominant theme, is people are scared and they are distrustful. And that is across party lines. It’s across ideological lines. They just don’t trust government, and we’re not going to make it if we don’t get that fixed.”
Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing his issues with the interpretation of the Patriot Act. He writes, “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation. While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”
Congress is thinking twice about its recent Patriot Act reauthorization. Earlier this year, Congress passed a four-year extension of expiring Patriot Act provisions, which won’t expire until June 1, 2015.
South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan turned to social media with his outrage over the lack of protect of citizens’ privacy.
He wrote on Facebook: “A few weeks ago, I joined with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to end the NSA’s current domestic spying program and protect the 4th Amendment. Our effort failed by a vote of 205-217; however, none of the information in this news report was made available to Congress at the time. How can Congress conduct proper oversight if we aren’t given all the facts? This should concern everyone across the political spectrum and I’m hopeful that armed with new facts that we’ll have the votes needed for our initiative to pass. I’m also hopeful that we’ll have seen some bipartisan outrage for being denied important oversight information.”
Duncan is one of the supporters of the LIBERT-E-Act, which stands for the “Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act.”
The purpose of this legislation is to shine a light on the secret processes of the federal government to spy on its citizens and it will also raise the standard by which any federal agency can engage in surveillance activities to prevent the mass collection of private information.