While lawmakers and advocates on both sides of the aisle are celebrating President Obama’s National Security Agency policy changes, one of the organizations that pushed hardest for change — the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – says they don’t go far enough.
“The president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement following President Obama’s announcement. “The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end — not mend — the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data.”
The ACLU welcomed several of the changes including measures designed to increase transparency from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the creation of a new privacy panel to oversee the balance of security and civil liberties on the court, and greater protection to insulate the communications of foreign citizens abroad.
Lawyers for the ACLU have engaged in multiple legal cases against the federal government over its use of the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata since the leaks of secret collection programs by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
“When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution,” Romero said. “The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”
The ACLU supports changes included in the U.S.A. FREEDOM Act, a bill written and sponsored by PATRIOT Act author and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy which revises the controversial Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which justifies the bulk collection of internet and telephone data belonging foreign and domestic citizens.