Wisconsin Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner is about the farthest thing you can be from a civil libertarian, but as the author of one of the most draconian expansions of United States surveillance power, even Sensenbrenner this week acknowledged the law he crafted was being abused, stating that even he won't be inclined to renew the Patriot Act if the NSA doesn't clean up its act.
Sensenbrenner was only the latest to point out the government was abusing section 215 of the act, which insists that only data "relevant to an ongoing terrorist investigation" can be collected. The NSA, as it has been made very clear, insists that everyone and everything is relevant, and they're gobbling up this data by the fistfull -- via everything from live fiber splits at AT&T head ends, to undersea cable taps.
At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee this week, Sensenbrenner laid into Deputy Attorney General James Cole, arguing that the government was trying to have its cake and eat it too
"You sure are (having it both ways) because you're saying have the court authorized to get the records of all the phone calls that are made to and from phones in the United States including people who have nothing to do with any kind of terrorist investigation. You gobble up all of those records and then you turn around and say well we’ll pick out maybe 300 phone numbers out of the billions of records that you have every day and you store for five years there. All the rest of this stuff is sitting in a warehouse and we found out from the IRS who knows who wants to have any kind of legal or illegal access to it. You are having it both ways."
We'll have to see how intense Sensenbrenner's opposition is after the anger over the Snowden leaks dies down. Meanwhile, at these same hearings, NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis acknowledged the NSA collects more data than they previously admitted (shocking), stating they now collect data on users "two or three hops" away from a terror suspect -- instead of the two hops previously stated by the agency.