WASHINGTON — Rep. Keith Ellison told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that revelations about National Security Agency surveillance programs mean it’s time for Congress to review laws governing U.S. intelligence operations.
Ellison said “it’s a fiction” that every member of Congress was informed about the NSA’s collection of American phone records and tech company data, information that leaked out via reports from the Guardian and Washington Post last week. Lawmakers should consider whether that’s necessary and effective going forward, he said.
I think we need to review the law. I think it casts too wide a net, and I think we ought to remember that the best way to protect the American public is to have active police work that follows up on leads that actually exist. Just figuring out what somebody’s phone calls are in Peoria or Minneapolis for that matter, anybody who’s not even connected, I don’t think its worthwhile. And if it is, I think somebody needs to come and make that case about why they need that information. We passed this law when we were very much afraid, for a legitimate reason, and its time to come back and really introduce privacy into the conversation.
The NSA news has created strange alliances between lawmakers from the right and the left, and in this case, it has Ellison agreeing with the Republican author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, who last week that the law doesn’t permit this kind of data collection.
On the other hand, a handful of key Democrats and Republicans have defended the program as key to American security, including President Obama and lawmakers on the hill.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry