Patriot Act author says phone record tracking is un-American

Patriot Act Author Tells Attorney General That Seizing Phone Records Is ‘Un-American’

The Patriot Act author may be experiencing some buyer’s remorse.

The lawmaker has notified the US Attorney General of his grave concerns that the law is being abused the FBI and the NSA in vacuuming up phone records of innocent citizens.

Last week it emerged that the National Security Agency pursuant to a previously top-secret court order has been tracking the phone calls of millions of Verizon Wireless customers. Other wireless carriers are also believed to be monitored. The NSA is reportedly relying on a provision of the Patriot Act to monitor “business records.”

This revelation of potential privacy violations of American citizens isn’t sitting well with Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R – Wisc.). The congressman summarized his strong feelings about the potential abuses as follows: “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation. While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”

In a letter to AG Holder, Sensenbrenner added the following: “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely disturbed by what appears to be an overbroad interpretation of the Act… I don not believe the released FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. How could the phone records of so many innocent Americans be relevant to an authorized investigation as required by the Act?

The letter also poses several questions to the AG about this program with answers due today. Sensenbrenner noted that the business records section “sunsets” in 2015 unless it is specifically reauthorized by Congress. “I insisted upon sunsetting this provision in order to ensure Congress had an opportunity to reassess the impact of the provision on civil liberties. I also closely monitored and relied on testimony from the Administration about how the Act was being interpreted to ensure that abuses had not occurred.” He added that he would not support any reauthorization unless the abuses are “reined in.”

Are you surprised that even the author of the Patriot Act believes that government surveillance is overstepping its bounds?