Congress knows little about NSA, extends its powers anyway

The House of Representatives just passed the USA FREEDOM Act, which extends three sunseting provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, the section that the NSA relied on to justify its bulk data collection.  The House renewed this provision even though, as Patrick Eddington of CATO points out in today's edition of The Hill, there has never been a comprehensive review of either the effectiveness or the constitutionality of these programs:

Nearly two years after Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations about the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs aimed at American citizens, the top lawyer for America’s Intelligence Community has admitted that no comprehensive review of the nation’s post-9/11 surveillance activities has ever been conducted.

Robert Litt, chief counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, made the statement  in response to a question I posed at a government transparency panel on Capitol Hill last week.

I asked Litt whether the Intelligence Community Inspector General, either alone or in coordination with other IGs, had conducted a comprehensive compliance review of all post-9/11 surveillance programs operating under the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, or Executive Order 12333.

Litt’s response: “No.”

He went on to claim that the task was being carried out by “others,” including the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Anyone familiar with the PCLOB knows that its shoe-string budget and tiny staff are not remotely up to the task of the kind of review in question. Litt also stated that “resource implications” made such a review by the ODNI and the agency IGs “impractical”—not a credible answer in light of the tens of billions of dollars thrown at the U.S. Intelligence Community in the post-9/11 era.

Litt’s admission that there has been no comprehensive examination of all IC post-9/11 surveillance collection activities is significant for three reasons:

1)      It means that the ODNI has not self-initiated such a review

2)      It means Congress has not requested such a review

3)      It also means that Congress, on the eve of reauthorizing a program that demonstrably does not work, does not feel the need to determine whether all other post 9/11 intelligence collection programs authorized under the these three authorities are operationally effective and compliant with the Constitution.

Read the whole article here.

Please help Campaign for Liberty stop the USA FREEDOM Act, and any legislation extending the "sunsetting" PATRIOT Act provisions by contributing to our  Stop the Surveillance State Money Bomb.


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