Author of PATRIOT Act Calls for Amending It

Republican representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin says he supports amending the PATRIOT Act in order to prevent abuses by the National Security Agency.

Sensenbrenner, who helped write the act in 2001, said he was disappointed that the current administration has misused the power granted to the executive branch to investigate and prevent terrorist activity. The NSA’s surveillance of the phone and Internet records of American citizens not suspected of such activity is “certainly not what the PATRIOT Act intended,” the congressman said.

Congress needs “to shut this door completely and not let it be pried open,” Sensenbrenner explained on Sean Hannity’s radio program on Monday. Changes to the legislation, he suggests, should be “very specific” so that “the intelligence community knows that this goes too far.”

“Apparently what the president seems to think is that universal background checks for guns are okay, so universal seizure of people’s telephone records is okay,” he said. 

Sensenbrenner argued that the streamlining of the surveillance-court system (FISA) has been “broadening” the PATRIOT Act’s application since 2007. He said that the secret court system was “designed to put a check on what the government could do,”  but that it hasn’t been doing so, as evidenced by the NSA’s successful pressuring of companies into turning over access to their data. Thus, the congressman said, the FISA court process will “need to be restricted” when Congress begins to amend the legislation.

“The public outcry, I think, is going to be very helpful,” Sensenbrenner concluded. “There’s a midterm election coming up and people are not going to forget what has come to light.”

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