Civil Liberties

Leahy's NSA 'Oversight' Bill Makes it Harder To Challenge Snooping

This isn't the first time he's pulled a fake


A proposal in Congress touted as increasing oversight of the National Security Agency could instead derail legal challenges to the U.S. government's warrantless demands for confidential customer data.

Legislation introduced last month by Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, alters the ground rules that currently permit U.S. companies to object to a secretive intelligence-gathering technique, called a national security letter, used by the federal government to obtain both individual and bulk customer records.

Part of Leahy's proposal prevents companies from directly challenging the legality of NSL requests in their local courts, meaning they need to rely on the Justice Department to initiate litigation in a jurisdiction of its own choosing—a dramatic change that raises the cost of a legal challenge and reduces the odds of it succeeding.