Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican Congressman from Wisconsin and a chief architect of the Patriot Act, has made headlines for criticizing the NSA's domestic spying. He considers the spying – and Dianne Feinstein's recently proposed legislation to codify it into legal legitimacy – a "scary" overreach of federal powers that undermines civil liberties. Earlier this week, Sensenbrenner met with members of the European Parliament to discuss his plan for reining the agency in.
The meeting took place at the Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs' hearing on the United States' mass surveillance of EU citizens. According to the Guardian, it is likely the first time a US congressman has delivered testimony before a European parliament committee.
Sensenbrenner, who was the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during the 9/11 attacks, told the committee that while he continues to support the intentions and effectiveness of the Patriot Act, he believes it has been used misused and abused by the NSA.
Sensenbrenner's testimony, from PJ Media:
Congress knew the country needed new tools and broader authorities to combat those who meant to harm us, but we never intended to allow the National Security Agency to peer indiscriminately into the lives of innocent people all over the world.
I firmly believe the Patriot Act saved lives by strengthening the ability of intelligence agencies to track and stop potential terrorists, but in the past few years, the National Security Agency has weakened, misconstrued and ignored the civil liberty protections we drafted into the law," he said, adding that the NSA "ignored restrictions painstakingly crafted by lawmakers and assumed a plenary authority we never imagined.
Worse, the NSA has cloaked its operations behind such a thick cloud of secrecy that, even if the NSA promised reforms, we would lack the ability to verify them.
Sensenbrenner then discussed has proposed legislation. The USA Freedom Act, which he co-introduced with Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), aims to end metadata collection and create several other "privacy protections" for citizens. It has so far garnered more than 100 co-sponsors as well as endorsements from groups like the ACLU and the NRA.
Although Sensenbrenner informed the committee members that there was little his bill could realistically do to curtail overseas spying on their citizens, the Guardian reports that his testimony was still "well received."