This past Wednesday, Rep. Mac Thornberry voted against the Amash amendment that would have ended authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. It would also bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, which pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.
Mr. Thornberry defended his vote by indicating the main reason for opposition to the NSA program is due to lack of understanding – that we shouldn’t be concerned because it’s ONLY the call records and not the content. If the program is inane as to not worry about, why did Director James Clapper lie to Congress about the existence of the program? Why not just tell them what NSA was doing if there is no need for concern?
Even if it is only call records, I am concerned that a secretive program has interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act to allow widespread collection of any data from innocent Americans. This interpretation also allows FBI agents to obtain any "tangible thing," including "books, records, papers, documents, and other items," a broad term that includes dumps from private-sector computer databases with limited judicial oversight.
Instead of the government collecting and storing the phone log of my 85 year old mother to see just in case she makes a call to some domestic or international terrorist, why not just track the records of the terrorist? And what if the government determines that she is a threat for contacting her local church too frequently (since the DHS and DOD have listed Christians as a top terrorist threat), will she then be exposed to greater scrutiny?
Many American believe there is something to be concerned about with these programs. And so did nearly 50% of Congress. The Amash amendment failed on a very close vote, 205-217. Did those 205 just not understand it was ONLY call records?