Joining nearly two dozen other members of Congress, Republican Thomas Massie is asking intelligence agencies to clarify their position on the Patriot Act in light of the National Security Agency obtaining millions of U.S. citizen’s phone records.
The 2-page letter signed by 22 lawmakers was drafted by fellow GOP Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, and it raises concerns that the NSA is using the law to “sweep up volumes of data about American’s every day telephone calls.”
It asks the NSA and FBI how long the agencies store the information and how many companies have been subjected to the order, among other questions.
Last week, the Republican lawmaker who authored the Patriot Act said the NSA went too far by collecting phone data on Americans, and has misinterpreted what the law was meant to do.
“I campaigned against the Patriot Act for this precise reason,” Massie said in a statement. “It appears that the FBI and the NSA are exploiting the Patriot Act to authorize a dramatic and unconstitutional expansion of domestic surveillance.”
Under a provision in the Patriot Act, the FBI can seek personal communication records without probable cause in a situation where a terrorist threat is foreseen. According to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order, the federal government has used that section to seize the records of calls made on Verizon and subsidiary networks since April.
At a recent press conference, President Obama defended the surveillance program and said that it did not include listening in on citizen’s phone calls.
But Massie says the NSA is exploiting the Patriot Act, adding lawmakers are partly responsible for passing a law that allows the executive branch to violate the U.S Constitution in the process.
“I recently voted against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act because it will authorize even more surveillance of innocent citizens. This latest revelation should serve as a wake-up call to Americans that Congress has passed, and continues to pass, dangerous and unconstitutional legislation without regard for our Constitution,” he says.
Privacy advocates have also pointed out that in the midst of this debate, the NSA is building a massive $1.2 billion data farm in Utah, which provides them with more information gathering tools.