Patriot Act Author Files Amicus Brief Supporting the ACLU in ACLU v. Clapper

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against four top Obama Administration officials (ACLU v. Clapper), asking a federal judge to declare the metadata sharing program unlawful, to put an end to it, and to force the NSA to purge all the data it has collected. Today an amicus brief was filed by someone who knows all about what the Patriot Act was and wasn't designed to do when it was written and subsequently made into law in late 2001 in the wake of 911.

Today Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) – represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – filed an amicus brief with the court supporting the ACLU (ACLU v. Clapper) related to the NSA's spying activities on American citizens. Sensenbrenner is the author of the Patriot Act, which was made into law way back in 2001. He says that the vast data handover that is going on through NSA spying programs on internet and mobile phone data is not at all what Congress intended to happen when it passed the Patriot Act. Section 215 of that law, which expanded government surveillance power of business records, is what the government argues gives it the authority to collect metadata in bulk. Sensenbrenner strongly disagrees:

"The vast majority of the records collected will have no relation to the investigation of terrorism at all," wrote in the amicus brief filed by the EFF. "This collection of millions of unrelated records is built-in to the mass call collection program. Defendants’ theory of “relevance” is simply beyond any reasonable understanding of the word. And it certainly is not what amicus intended the word to mean.

Defendants do not explain why Congress would have enacted such meaningless provisions. The bulk data collection program is unbounded in its scope. The NSA is gathering on a daily basis the details of every call that every American makes, as well as every call made by foreigners to or from the United States. How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?"

Also signing on in support of the ACLU in the case are Michael Lynch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut; the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press; and the National Rifle Association (NRA). For its part, the NRA argues that the creation of a vast phone records database constituted a de facto gun owners’ list.

"Under the government’s reading of Section 215, the government could simply demand the periodic submission of all firearms dealers’ transaction records, then centralize them in a database indexed by the buyers’ names for later searching," the NRA writes in its filing.

Source: Ars Technica


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