They couldn't have been trying harder to muster jingoistic fervor -- or perhaps just the unthinking support of lawmakers who don't read the bills they vote for -- when they named the USA Freedom Act. The bill introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., aims to -- through legislative effort -- end the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' communication records.
On Tuesday, bipartisan lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee urged the Obama administration to get behind the preposterously named but significant legislation. Sensenbrenner went as far as to warm to deputy attorney general James Cole that the executive branch would lose the powers granted by Congress with the Patriot Act if they failed to offer support to the USA Freedom Act. "You will get nothing" the Wisconsin Republican told Cole.
I've noted before that while efforts to rein in NSA data hoarding and limiting Patriot Act powers -- both included in the USA Freedom Act -- are commendable, they by no means spell an end to our state of totalized surveillance. Indeed our communications data would still be stored, either by telecoms firms or a private third party, in a form surveillable by the NSA. Reform efforts would, however, add a level of oversight currently lacking in government surveillance practices.