The Patriot Act’s author wants to dismantle the NSA’s phone and internet data collection

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The author of the Patriot Act announced his latest plans to work to defund the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records to an audience in Washington on Wednesday.

After months of gaining steam, the U.S. government shutdown appears to have stalled surveillance reform efforts on the Hill and in the executive branch.

On Wednesday, however, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner told an audience at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in D.C., that he planned to introduce new legislation to “end the bulk collection of American’s communications records by adopting a uniform standard for intelligence gathering under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

Sensenbrenner is the author of the Patriot Act.

The bill, called the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping and Online Monitoring (USAFREEDOM) Act,  would also tighten Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, also known as the “business records” provision, and Section 702 of FISA, are used by the Executive Branch as the legal justification for the NSA’s bulk collection of the phone and Internet records of Americans.

His remarks — made to a room full of journalists, technologists, and policy and legal experts — were part of the final keynote address of the day.

“The Administration has proven beyond a reasonable doubt in my opinion that any standard can be abused, so it is also critical that we increase transparency,” said Sensenbrenner.

“We don’t need to have an Edward Snowden to let us know what’s going on there,” he said. “We need more transparency, and there’s a way to do it.”

Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden and Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash delivered their own remarks to the conference in separate keynote addresses earlier in the day.

Amash made waves of his own in July when his amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have defunded the NSA’s mass surveillance programs was only narrowly defeated, surprising civil libertarians and defense hawks alike.

Sensenbrenner also supported the Amash amendment.

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