Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top senator calls for scrapping key snooping Patriot Act section

**FILE** Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Associated Press)The Senate’s senior lawmaker said Tuesday that its time to end the Patriot Act power that the intelligence community has relied on to collect all Americans’ phone records, saying it isn’t making the country safer.

“In my view, and I’ve discussed this with the White House, the Section 215 collection of Americans’ phone records must end,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the SenateJudiciary Committee. “It is not making America safer and the government has not made its case this is an effective counterterrorism tool.”

Speaking at Georgetown Law Center, Mr. Leahy said he would hold a classified briefing this week and call an open hearing next week to try to look at the issues at stake.

The intelligence snooping has come under scrutiny since leaks earlier this year exposed that the U.S. government was collecting the time and phone numbers of calls made in the U.S., as well as combing through other electronic communications.

Since then, the intelligence community has admitted it has repeatedly broken its own rules — though officials say they have caught themselves and have generally not found any intentional efforts to abuse the programs.

Mr. Leahy, though, said there aren’t enough checks built into the program to let it continue, particularly with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has grown from a panel that approves wiretaps into a major legal power that decides weighty constitutional issues — all outside the view of the public.

“They are conducting oversight of highly technical programs that even the agency running them apparently did not understand and certainly did not accurately explain to the court. And they are doing all of this entirely in secret and without the benefits of an adversarial process,” Mr. Leahy said.

Via: Washington Times

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