US senators throw down fresh challeng...

US senators throw down fresh challenges to NSA over snooping

Posted in the Chicago Forum

Amel Ahmed

Matawan, NJ

#1 Jan 5, 2014
US senators throw down fresh challenges to NSA over snooping

by Amel Ahmed - @amelscript |January 4, 2014 |11:29AM ET

Legal expert says what's needed is more congressional oversight

Two US senators launch twin challenges to the National Security Agency's metadata collection program.Jose Luis Magana/AP

Two U.S. senators issued separate challenges to the National Security Agency's metadata collection program Friday, putting further pressure on the spy agency to roll back its domestic surveillance agenda.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., sent a letter to the NSA chief requesting information on whether the agency has ever spied on elected officials.

“I am writing today to ask you one very simple question,” said Sanders in a letter addressed to NSA Director General Keith Alexander.“Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?”

Sanders, a longtime NSA critic, wrote in the letter that the agency's data collection program targeting Americans is “clearly unconstitutional.” He also expressed concern with the NSA's wiretapping of phone calls made by international leaders, calling it an "equally disturbing" revelation that has "caused an increase in anti-American sentiment throughout the world."

Republican Sen. Rand Paul, meanwhile, announced that he is filing a suit against the Obama administration over the NSA's controversial data-collection policies. The lawsuit, Paul said, will focus on whether the NSA's conduct violated the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Kentucky Republican urged Americans to join him in his lawsuit — "to stop Barack Obama's NSA from snooping" — by signing up on his website.

But some experts question the utility of another lawsuit against the NSA. Mark S. Zaid, a Washington, D.C. national security attorney, says that officials who are sincere about reforming the NSA should focus their efforts at the legislative level.

"Congressional oversight of the domestic surveillance programs has been sorely lacking, and it is there that Senator Paul should focus his attentions. This has the appearance of nothing but a public relations move on his part to generate personal support," he said.

The NSA has faced intense scrutiny for its mass surveillance programs ever since whistle-blower Edward Snowden began releasing classified information last spring, exposing the agency's controversial programs.

During an interview Friday on the Fox News program "Hannity," Rand said that he believes everyone in the U.S. with a cellphone is eligible to join the suit as a class action.

The suit comes on the heels of two conflicting court rulings against the NSA. A New York federal judge ruled in December that the NSA's phone-data collection system is legal and "represents the government's counter-punch to al-Qaeda." The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In contrast, a Washington federal judge ruled in December that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records is likely unconstitutional. That suit was brought forward by Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, on behalf of Charles Strange, the father of a NSA cryptologist killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011.

The conflicting decisions are expected to make their way to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday renewed the authority of U.S. intelligence agencies to collect data on Americans' telephone calls. A U.S. official told Reuters that the authority was renewed for an additional three months.

Although similar orders in the past were issued to individual telephone companies, the official said that the latest order covered all companies from which metadata had been collected under previous court authorizations.

Zion, IL

#2 Jan 5, 2014
Stand with Paul this affects us all!!!

Zion, IL

#3 Jan 6, 2014
Don't forget Ron Johnson from wi!

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