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So, Senator ____ what are YOU going to do about the NSA?

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I wrote one of my Senators, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a while back about the NSA and its out-of-control practices and violations of the Constitution.  Well, OK, maybe I just signed one of those endless e-petitions that floods the mailbox of anyone who is even the least bit politically active.  In any case, I got a response, which is mostly mild and equivocal, but does mention one concrete action: the co-sponsorship of the Ending Secret Law Act.  Unfortunately, this Act was introduced way back on June 11, 2013, and Govtrack.us gives it only a 6% chance of being enacted.  See here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s1130

Govtrack gives the full title of this bill as:

"A bill to require the Attorney General to disclose each decision, order, or opinion of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that includes significant legal interpretation of section 501 or 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 unless such disclosure is not in the national security interest of the United States and for other purposes."

and its progress as:

Introduced Jun 11, 2013 Referred to Committee Jun 11, 2013 Reported by Committee ... Passed Senate ... Passed House ... Signed by the President ...

These are the co-sponsors and committee referral:

Cosponsors
15 cosponsors (12D, 3R) 
Begich, Mark [D-AK]
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Lee, Mike [R-UT]
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(joined Jun 12, 2013)
(joined Jun 12, 2013)
(joined Jun 12, 2013)
(joined Jul 08, 2013)
(joined Jul 16, 2013)
(joined Sep 09, 2013)
Committees

Senate Judiciary



Congress is, of course, where good ideas go to die.  A quick perusal of Govtrack will reveal few bills with more than a 10% chance of passing, and Govtrack's record is pretty good about this.  You can set it up to notify you about the progress of bills or even everything your elected representative votes upon, daily or weekly too.

See below and then decide if Chuck Schumer, or your own Senator, needs to push for this bill harder.


Dear Mr. Baker:
     Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to the recent revelations about the work of the National Security Agency.  I share your concerns about protecting civil liberties while still keeping America safe.
 
     Twelve years after September 11th, our country has made great strides to prevent another terrorist attack against Americans at home and abroad, but it is critical that these efforts do not come at the cost of the freedoms and liberties we cherish.  Recent reports of NSA surveillance and data collection programs have caused us all to take a serious look at our laws and regulations, many of which were enacted in the aftermath of that horrible tragedy to prevent such an attack from happening again.  While the intentions of these NSA programs are to protect American lives, we must balance that objective with protection of citizens' basic rights to due process, the presumption of innocence and privacy.
 
          We have always sought to strike a balance between security and liberty in America; we need the government to protect us while at the same time respecting our privacy and civil liberties.  I have three rules in these discussions of security and liberty when it comes to the surveillance programs at issue. First, there should be an open discussion and debate about them in Congress. Policies this profound should not be decided unilaterally by any administration. Second, there should be clear rules established that the government has to obey. Third, there ought to be an independent arbiter, like a judge, that makes sure these rules are being obeyed.  
 
     Once the arbiter makes rulings on these issues, they should be released to the public for review -- so long as their release would not jeopardize our national security. Currently, because of the secrecy of the FISA Court, the public has no way to judge whether or not it is effectively enforcing the rules established by Congress.  Therefore, I believe we need more transparency and accountability in the FISA Court. That's why I am cosponsoring the Ending Secret Law Act (S.1130), legislation that would require the Attorney General to declassify these rulings and make them available to the public, so long as they do not jeopardize national security. A debate over making the FISA Court orders public would help answer questions about whether the NSA programs are legal and effective. For instance, right now no one knows how the FISA Court is interpreting critical legal principles and precedents.  Understanding these rulings will help us to determine whether these programs are necessary or go too far.  If the decisions of the FISA Court were available to the public, one could more effectively discern if they're being an effective arbiter.
 
     I will continue to very closely examine the NSA surveillance programs to discern how we can craft better oversight.  If additional legislation is necessary to revise these programs, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that the safety of our country does not come at the sacrifice of our guiding Constitutional principles.
 
     Thank you for contacting me about this important issue.  Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance on this or any other matter.
 
 
Sincerely,
 
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator


 

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:
http://www.americaisnotbroke.net/

Scott is former President of Common Ground-NYC (http://commongroundnyc.org/), a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written (more...)
 

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