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Monday, June 17

Obama and Sensenbrenner : two very different views of U.S. domestic spying program

Quotes below are from Congressman (R-WI) Jim Sensenbrenner's June 9 op-ed for The Guardian titled, This Abuse of the Patriot Act Must End:

"President Obama falsely claims Congress authorised all NSA surveillance. In fact, our law was designed to protect liberties."

"The administration claims authority to sift through details of our private lives because the Patriot Act says that it can. I disagree. I authored the Patriot Act, and this is an abuse of that law."

"In his press conference on Friday, President Obama described the massive collection of phone and digital records as "two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized by Congress". But Congress has never specifically authorized these programs, and the Patriot Act was never intended to allow the daily spying the Obama administration is conducting.

"To obtain a business records order like the one the administration obtained, the Patriot Act requires the government to prove to a special federal court, known as a Fisa court, that it is complying with specific guidelines set by the attorney general and that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation. Intentionally targeting US citizens is prohibited.

 "Technically, the administration's actions were lawful insofar as they were done pursuant to an order from the Fisa court. But based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the Fisa court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.

"The released Fisa order requires daily productions of the details of every call that every American makes, as well as calls made by foreigners to or from the United States. Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations. How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?

"This is well beyond what the Patriot Act allows."

Again, those are just excerpts, but now I want to turn to President Barack Obama's replies to Charlie Rose during Mr Rose's interview with him (see the Washington Post website for links in the report) for PBS:

Obama says administration making ‘right trade-offs’ in surveillance programs
By Juliet Eilperin
Published: MONDAY, JUNE 17, 8:41 PM ET
The Washington Post

President Obama defended his administration’s right to engage in extensive surveillance of U.S. communications in an interview with PBS host Charlie Rose, saying the programs had disrupted multiple terrorist plots and had adequate checks and balances. During the interview — which was conducted Sunday before Obama left for Europe and was set to air Monday night — the president took pains to distinguish his national security approach to those of former president George W. Bush and former vice president Richard B. Cheney.

“The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.’ Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock and barrel,’ ” Obama said, according to a transcript provided by PBS.

 “My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances?”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Obama argued, provided sufficient oversight of the National Security Agency’s activities and said the government was “making the right tradeoffs” in balancing privacy rights with national security prerogatives.

“What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your e-mails,” he added, before Rose interjected, “And have not.”

“And have not,” Obama reiterated.

“They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be ‘they,’ it’d be the FBI — go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause.”

The number of requests for wiretapping orders from the FISA court, Obama said, is “surprisingly small.”

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