NSA Secret Meeting with Congress

The NSA and its cohorts have been pushing for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act as it reaches the deadline for reinstatement before the sunset clause kicks in on the 1st of June. So on the night of May 12th, the NSA set up a secret meeting with Congress to talk them into backing the reauthorization of 14 Patriot Act provisions. This came just a couple of days after a federal appeals court passed their judgment that the NSA had misused the Patriot Act for illegal surveillance on Americans.

Scrambling for Power

The sections of the Patriot Act that will expire under the sunset clause are 201 (terrorism case wiretapping), 202 (computer fraud and abuse wiretapping), 203b and 203d (sharing foreign intelligence and wiretap data), 204, 206, 207, 214, 215, 218, and 225 (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – e.g. roving wiretaps), 209 (warranted seizure of voicemail), 217 (computer trespasser communications), 220 (electronic evidence warrants or nationwide service), and 223 (civil liability for privacy violation). The NSA needs the Patriot Act to be reauthorized because they have couched all their surveillance activities under its provisions. Without FISA, without the power to seize electronic messages, and without immunity from privacy violations, the sky will come crashing down on their heads.

The original Patriot Act was bad enough because of the abuses that were allowed. But not only is there the danger of having to put up with it for a few more years. Its supporters are actually trying to make it stronger this time. If it passes through Congress this month, it will come out on the other end as a robust mass surveillance bill that will clearly give the NSA and other government agencies the power to monitor the private lives of the citizenry, and even go deeper than they have before. And this is why the NSA just had to have a clandestine Rendezvous with members of Congress.

So the NSA is scrambling now because the odds are stacked heavily against them. The New York Second US Circuit Court of Appeals tore apart the NSA’s case for using Patriot Act provisions only last Thursday. The panel of three judges stripped the government’s theories on their right to extend the provisions to allow mass data gathering. The ruling may not have defined the NSA’s spying as being in violation of constitutionally protected privacy rights, but it did clearly say that the Patriot Act was and is most certainly not intended to be used to permit the kind of mass spying that they have been doing all along.

Stop Shielding the NSA

Congress is not likely to flippantly decide on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act after this 97-page ruling that is all about how the NSA has been illegally spying on people’s private phone calls. They will definitely be cautious, even simply because of the backlash that will most certainly whip them into the next decade if they let it pass so they can run off for their Memorial Day recess. Lawmakers are in even deeper discussion over how to deal with Section 215 and other abused provisions in light of the ruling.

But the NSA is obviously not going to give up so easily. They have gone to greater lengths to persuade the House to ignore the clear signs that the section must be revised or finally allowed to go to its grave. Jim Sensenbrenner himself, the pioneer author of the Patriot Act, is saying that we need to let it go to stop the multiple perversions that it has suffered for the sake of permitting ongoing abuses of government agencies. The NSA is also on edge about the looming vote on the proposed USA Freedom Act, which the Obama administration is in favor of. If this passes, it will mean that only some of the Patriot Act’s sections will be renewed. These will not include those sections that the NSA uses to illegitimately justify phone record data mining and collection.

When Congress passed the Patriot Act, they wanted a law that would stand strong against threats of terrorism to their native land. But it has been used more to satisfy the whims of spy agencies to create massive surveillance programs that have actually been hugely unsuccessful in protecting the nation. Instead, these programs have used an illegal interpretation of a very serious law to play peeping tom. And now, not only are Americans not safer, but also being made more open to illegal spying because of a few crooked reps who want to stay friends with the NSA to further their careers. The NSA ultimately wants to maintain mass surveillance on the country so that they can keep their grip on the freedoms of thought and expression.

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