Mike Masnick
Tech Dirt
Oct. 11, 2013

Photo: F Delventhal via Flickr

We’ve written a few times about how the author of the PATRIOT Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, has insisted that the bill was written specifically to prevent the kind of datamining we now know the NSA pretends the law authorized. However, as some have pointed out, for a decade, plenty of people have directly raised these kinds of concerns (without knowing the specifics of what the NSA was doing) to Sensenbrenner about how “his” PATRIOT Act could be abused — and he brushed them off or ignored it every single time.

However, now that he seems to realize what’s happening (though, without apologizing for his earlier attacks on those who raised questions about the PATRIOT Act), he’s finally getting ready to introduce new legislation, dubbed the USA Freedom Act, to try to clearly restrain the activities of the NSA. According to the Guardian, who has seen a draft of the bill, the bill will do a few things:

It seeks to limit the collection of phone records to known terrorist suspects; to end “secret laws” by making courts disclose surveillance policies; to create a special court advocate to represent privacy interests; and to allow companies to disclose how many requests for users’ information they receive from the USA. The bill also tightens up language governing overseas surveillance to remove a loophole which it has been abused to target internet and email activities of Americans.

All of these are good things — and all are items that we’ve been focusing on for quite some time. Plus, there’s this:

Sensenbrenner also called for the prosecution of Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, who admitted misleading the Senate intelligence committee about the extent of bulk collection of telephone records.

“Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution,” said the congressman.

While it may have taken a bit too long in our opinion, it’s good to see Rep. Sensenbrenner taking a strong stand against the Intelligence Communities abuses. Hopefully, the next time civil liberties advocates raise issues like this, he won’t be so dismissive.

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