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  (Source: Mashable)
Both Republican and Democratic senators hope to end bulk collection of American communications

U.S. senators are looking to terminate the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk collection of communications between Americans through new surveillance reforms.

U.S. senators have introduced legislation this week to keep a tighter rein on the NSA's behavior, such as the use of surveillance programs to collect Americans' communications in bulk. The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a public hearing today, where the panel will discuss these surveillance reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

One of the measures is authored by Democrats Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Richard Blumenthal, and Republican Rand Paul. It seeks to stop the bulk collection of American communications; develop a "constitutional advocate" to represent the public in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; allow Americans affected by the surveillance programs to file lawsuits for damages in U.S. courts, and let companies disclose more information about cooperation with government surveillance.

“Recent revelations about NSA overreach show the need for strong and effective oversight of government surveillance – oversight by a Constitutional Advocate to fight for Americans’ civil liberties before the FISA Courts,” said Blumenthal. “This reform, as well as the others in this legislative package, will ensure that the NSA and the FISA Courts respect constitutional rights. We can protect both national security and constitutional liberties by making sure the Courts hear both sides, as they do in every other judicial proceeding.” 

The NSA was busted for its questionable eavesdropping methods via surveillance programs earlier this year when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed them to the public. Some of the methods included collecting data from phones and email in bulk, then sifting through the information after collection in an effort to find foreign communications or hints of terrorist activity. But the public feared for their privacy after such revelations.

Last month, reports said that the NSA admitted to touching 1.6 percent of total globe Web traffic. Its technique was to filter data after harvesting it, which led to over-collection on a major scale. 

Days later, an internal audit showed that the NSA broke the law nearly 3,000 times from 2011 to 2012. More specifically, the May 2012 audit revealed that the NSA had abused its power to either accidentally or intentionally spy on Americans and green card holders 2,997 times in that time period. 

More recent reports show that the NSA bypasses several types of Internet encryption, and even used back-door access to tech giants like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft for three years to gain the information it wanted. Furthermore, Snowden said that the NSA spends about $250 million USD to diminish international encryption standards (as well as products) so that it can decode what it wants.

To further prove the government's intense bullying for secret data, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said she feared being prosecuted for treason had she not complied with government requests at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco earlier this month.

Sources:, Reuters

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We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!
By amanojaku on 9/26/2013 9:24:47 PM , Rating: 2
It's nice to know that Congress has our back. After the federal government got caught doing something it had no business doing... /s

And, seriously, Tiffany? No sources at the time of my post? :-p

Tried to post the whole thing, but I got an error.

By ERROR666 on 9/26/2013 9:49:16 PM , Rating: 4
Congress has noone's back. Only their own back. They are trying to make things look like they did something. This is all. They want to be able to say - we stopped the mass spying so they can get elected again. This is the ultimate goal. In reality they stop nothing. They just make some noise so we can read bout it on some news site.
As long as there's Nsa, as long as Nsa has your money and as long as there's a secret court that approves everything Nsa says things will be exactly the same or worse. Probably worse because if this measure passes everybody will be off this case and the government can continue to do whatever they're doing.

How about a quiz? If you break any law 3000 times how does your future look? Now what changes assuming you work for the government?

RE: We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!
By ihateu3 on 9/27/2013 1:25:30 AM , Rating: 1
Since congress supposedly find's the NSA guilty, is Edward Snowden off the hook then???

How can he be charged of a crime for whistle blowing on a crime, that even congress finds was in violation of the law???

NSA gets a slap on the wrist because it was "accidental" and Snowden gets charged for telling on their accidents...

Seems more like they want to set an example with him, more like a "Warning" to anyone else thinking of doing the same.

By emarston on 9/27/2013 10:34:33 AM , Rating: 1
He is charged for breaking the law, regardless of his intentions there are legal ways to be a whistle blower. He chose to not use those means and absolutely knowingly broke the law in his choice of action.

By superstition on 9/27/2013 2:40:33 PM , Rating: 3
Your post is the appeal to authority near fallacy. I say near fallacy because it's technically not a fallacy, but it is distorting in terms of logic.

There is a law against breathing. Therefore, breaking the law against breathing means that the person breaking it should be punished. This is also known as the "every law is a good law" fallacy, I'd say.
if I had to pick the single most revealing aspect of this entire NSA scandal - and there are many revealing ones about many different realms - it would be that James Clapper lied to the faces of the Senate Intelligence Committee about core NSA matters, and not only was he not prosecuted for that felony , but he did not even lose his job , and continues to be treated with great reverence by the very Committee which he deliberately deceived. That one fact tells you all you need to know about how official Washington functions.

This shows how important legality is to our owners and their acolytes.

By ClownPuncher on 9/27/2013 3:11:13 PM , Rating: 1
Logical fallacies... you're using them with that "law against breathing" bullshit.

How would we run a government or military if we didn't ask people to follow the rules they WILLFULLY SIGNED UP FOR?

RE: We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!
By rountad on 9/27/2013 3:55:27 PM , Rating: 2
A soldier does not have to obey an unlawful order.

Congress (the ones charged with oversight) are violating their oaths of office by violating the Fourth Amendment. They were complicit.

More people should be as courageous and principled as Snowden.

By ClownPuncher on 9/27/2013 4:29:18 PM , Rating: 2
Non disclosure is not unlawful. I, too, applaud the release of information, but Snowden still reacted in a way that violated his NDA, instead of properly using whistleblower avenues and the protection they provide.

By rountad on 9/27/2013 5:10:54 PM , Rating: 2
My point is that whistle-blowing isn't an option if the overseers (President, Congress, FISC, etc...) are all complicit.

I don't know what else he could have done that would have gotten the slightest bit of traction.

RE: We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!
By ritualm on 9/29/2013 2:32:03 PM , Rating: 2
Between the following three choices:

1. Do nothing. Abide by all non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. Earn a comfortable living within the Establishment. Dismiss all danger signs of living under permanent, intrusive and omnipotent government surveillance in a supposedly "free" and "democratic" country. Pretend as if everything is perfectly fine.

2. Try to find people and organizations that are sympathetic to the truth, follow the rule of law and blow the whistle. Get charged by the Obama Administration for "aiding the enemy" and dozens of criminal and capital charges under the Espionage Act. Live the rest of your life behind bars, your reputation irreversibly tarnished by the government. Remember, this President absolutely hates whistleblowers and press freedoms.

3. Cultivate press contacts and gain their trust. Relinquish all hopes of living a good life in exchange of a clear, justified, moral conscience. Blow the lid off everything NSA had been doing over the past decade against everyone on this planet, in direct violation of every single line of the US Constitution and its various Amendments. Make a mockery out of Obama's "Change and Hope" "campaign", and prove why both the US and UK governments are unworthy of our trust.

Edward Snowden went with #3. For his choice, his life has gone to hell, but the benefits? He doesn't have to live under a cloud of guilt over his head anymore.

Confidentiality is worthless when doing so puts yourself at odds with your own beliefs and values.

By rountad on 9/30/2013 10:37:02 AM , Rating: 2
Good post!

He is courageous and a patriot.

By superstition on 9/27/2013 7:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see how your post rebuts anything I said. The law against breathing illustrates my point about the fact that just referring to something being the law proves nothing about the justness/rationality of the law.

RE: We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!
By Piiman on 9/28/2013 1:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
Well until its changed the law is the law. It doesn't matter if you think its unjust. So until someone takes it to the SCOTUS and they declare it unconstitutional its the law.

By Bruzote on 9/30/2013 10:18:23 AM , Rating: 2
Your logic that one must always abide by the law would also say that our Founding Fathers were wrong to rebel. Fact is, the original colonists were not guaranteed Parliamentary representation when the settlers first came here. Since they had no rights to self-govern, their demands for it had no legal basis. If they wanted representation, they should have moved to the homeland or another country with representative government of some sort. Your logic would have the Founding Fathers guilty for failure to follow law. Given the level of law-breaking they engaged in, your logic would have them hanged. Good thing they didn't listen to the likes of you.

As for U.S. citizens trying to change secrecy and security laws, history proves that our "representatives" can not be counted on to represent the people or justice. Likewise for the Supreme Court and the courts below them. First, SCOTUS has not obligation to take on every case (they pass on most eligible cases). Then, SCOTUS does not always vote for justice. They voted yes on internment camps, slavery, and "separate but equal". You would say we must wait for appeals to this same court? Forget it, history on intelligence and secrecy shows that SCOTUS will not uphold the citizenry's rights. In that regard, SCOTUS is no different than the King George our Founding Fathers faced. At some point, de facto morality diverges so much from legislative 'morality' that something must be done. When representative government no longer represents the people, they are morally obligated to do what they can to expose and throw off that government. If the government responds to such efforts sufficiently before it is completely thrown off, then the public may choose to keep the government. Otherwise, the process should continue to fruition.

By Solandri on 9/27/2013 4:09:26 PM , Rating: 2
Congress has noone's back. Only their own back. They are trying to make things look like they did something. This is all. They want to be able to say - we stopped the mass spying so they can get elected again.

If this bill passes (big if), that'll be true. The Senate and some committee members in the House already knew what the NSA was doing - they're the ones who crafted the laws authorizing it. When Snowden first started leaking intel, they were already defending the data collection. Now that public sentiment is starting to swing against it, they're in CYA mode and trying to set up the NSA to take the fall while they paint themselves as the white knight who saves the people and stops the program (that they started).

That said, I believe the bill's sponsors have always been against this data collection. It's just that until now they didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting other Senators and Congressmen to vote with them to stop it.

By Mint on 10/2/2013 12:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
You're right, but you're also showing how this is largely the public's fault.

It's now 12 freakin years after the Patriot act was passed to allow FISA's scope of applicability to be almost limitless. FINALLY voters care enough about the issue for senators to make noise about this issue.

There was one senator who voted against the Patriot Act, and here's his prescient speech of why he did so:

One provision that troubles me a great deal is a provision that permits the government under FISA to compel the production of records from any business regarding any person, if that information is sought in connection with an investigation of terrorism or espionage.

Now we're not talking here about travel records pertaining to a terrorist suspect, which we all can see can be highly relevant to an investigation of a terrorist plot. FISA already gives the FBI the power to get airline, train, hotel, car rental and other records of a suspect.

But under this bill, the government can compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone -- perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by -- the target of the investigation.

And under this new provisions all business records can be compelled, including those containing sensitive personal information like medical records from hospitals or doctors, or educational records, or records of what books someone has taken out of the library. This is an enormous expansion of authority, under a law that provides only minimal judicial supervision.

By retrospooty on 9/27/2013 8:24:17 AM , Rating: 1

"We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!"

That is exactly it. No public outing, congress wouldnt do a damn ting, and YES< they knew about it. They voted it in.

By Spuke on 9/27/2013 10:04:51 AM , Rating: 2
X2!!! The comments from some of you are AMAZING!!! The NSA did not make up this program NOR did it just start spying on people out of the blue. Some of you really do NOT know how our government works. No wonder there are so many ridiculous conspiracy theories. Congress has ALWAYS known about these programs. They have to approve them...scratch that...they or the President ASKS for them. The NSA is tasked to accomplish a goal. Every single government agency is tasked with a goal(s), it's up to that agency to figure out how to meet that goal(s). Congress and the President are the one's that got caught here.

RE: We got caught with our hands in the cookie jar!
By BRB29 on 9/27/2013 9:11:50 AM , Rating: 2
It's nice to know that Congress has our back. After the federal government got caught doing something it had no business doing... /s

You realize that they are the ones that started it right? Now it's all the outrage so some of them are backpedaling because they want to get reelected.

By amanojaku on 9/27/2013 9:24:16 AM , Rating: 2
/S means sarcasm. I thought it was pretty obvious from the title and the second sentence. Sorry.

By retrospooty on 9/27/2013 10:12:47 AM , Rating: 2
Oh look.. A sarcasm switch (/S)... Now THERE is a useful invention.

By amanojaku on 9/27/2013 10:26:30 AM , Rating: 2
It's more useful than your comment, and it's been used long before I posted it. Some people don't get sarcasm in writing unless it's pointed out. Did you have anything to add to the issue the article is commenting on, or did you just come here to be an ass?

By retrospooty on 9/27/2013 11:36:45 AM , Rating: 2
LOL... Dood, I was joking. See below.

By amanojaku on 9/27/2013 12:47:42 PM , Rating: 2
I just got Simpsoned! It's on!

By retrospooty on 9/27/2013 1:04:17 PM , Rating: 2

Clearly this is the one that really fits this article...

Good luck fringe congressmen
By coburn_c on 9/26/2013 9:34:28 PM , Rating: 2
I want Wyden and Paul to ticket up for 2016, I mean it would be a horrible failure, but a man can dream.

RE: Good luck fringe congressmen
By ritualm on 9/26/2013 9:49:48 PM , Rating: 5
US politics is like watching two retarded hicks argue who is more right.

By retrospooty on 9/27/2013 8:25:31 AM , Rating: 2
"US politics is like watching two retarded hicks argue who is more right."

Sadly you are right. We are becoming a goat and pony show.

RE: Good luck fringe congressmen
By Spuke on 9/27/2013 10:06:02 AM , Rating: 2
US politics is like watching two retarded hicks argue who is more right.

By superstition on 9/27/2013 2:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
That sounds a lot like the commentary here, especially the incessant Apple bashers vs. Apple apologists garbage.

I tried to use satire to poke fun at it. Of course the posts were hidden away.

Jack Nicholson: "You can't handle the truth!"

RE: Good luck fringe congressmen
By Ammohunt on 9/27/2013 11:53:11 AM , Rating: 2
Wyden and Paul whos that a 70ies folk music group?

The program doesn't just need ending.
By rountad on 9/27/2013 12:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
The NSA does, too. How can an agency that has so far strayed from the law and what is justifiable continue to exist?

RE: The program doesn't just need ending.
By Piiman on 9/28/2013 1:34:24 PM , Rating: 2
Well while the spying on us is questionable at best they do in fact provide a service to the country that I wouldn't want to be without. We just have to make sure they are spying on the right people And as someone pointed out its not like they made up the program they were "tasked" to do it. Maybe its Congress that shouldn't be allowed to exist? They are the ones passing these laws and secret Courts.

By rountad on 9/30/2013 10:34:07 AM , Rating: 2
The existence of Congress is directly described and authorized in the Constitution. They are answerable to us.

The NSA is not, on either count.

And, yes, I would like to see any who knew about this and did not fight it to be removed from office.

"constitutional advocate"?
By danjw1 on 9/27/2013 11:49:21 AM , Rating: 2
How does that work? Someone from the executive branch defending the constitutional rights of american citizens? They are the same people that have been violating the constitutional rights of those american citizens. The only way that works is if the higher the ACLU to perform that task. Sounds like another fox guarding the hen house type of situation. The FISC judges are appointed my the Chief Justice of SCOTUS. That isn't working as a check. Why would we expect someone from the executive to provide better oversight then the judiciary?

RE: "constitutional advocate"?
By DaveLessnau on 9/27/2013 1:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
And I'll add that every one of our fine elected officials (President, Representatives, Senators) swears an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Well, that's "support and defend" for Congress:

So, why do we need a "Constitutional Advocate?" Aren't those very elected officials that passed the laws that allowed these violations already our "Constitutional Advocates?" By the logic of these Senators, will we then need "Constitutional Advocates" to protect us from the "Constitutional Advocates" who are protecting us from the very "Constitutional Advocates" we elected in the first place? If these power-mad oligarchists would just limit themselves to the jobs they're supposed to do, we wouldn't have these problems.

Good idea
By Ammohunt on 9/27/2013 11:50:38 AM , Rating: 2
Something positive coming out of congress? what alternate universe have i been sucked into?

RE: Good idea
By superstition on 9/27/2013 2:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's called Congressional Propaganda (also known as BS).

By fic2 on 9/27/2013 1:36:27 PM , Rating: 2
Don't there need to be some reins to begin with before Congress can "pull them in"?

RE: Reins?
By retrospooty on 9/27/2013 1:47:56 PM , Rating: 2
Congress needs the reins. They do nothing but create madness then argue over how to handle madness. If they just went on permanent vacation we would be much better off.

By wookie1 on 9/29/2013 4:10:38 AM , Rating: 3
So, after they disregard the rules that are already in place (without any consequence), the answer is just more rules that they won't follow? Our country is in the best of hands.

It'll be a while...
By Movieman420 on 9/27/2013 9:03:40 AM , Rating: 2
I read somewhere on CNN that the time frame for congress to 'deal with' and/or fact find re: the nsa has it happening 'by 2016'!! What a crock.

By kerpwnt on 9/27/2013 10:51:02 AM , Rating: 2
What are they going to do with all the equipment they have tied in to our domestic communications lines? As long as the government sits on billions of dollars worth of equipment that was procured for the purpose of domestic spying, there will be a problem.

If they do "end" the program, I'd be worried what they use the equipment for afterwards. We all know that they won't just shelve it. PRISM 2.0, XKeyscore 2.0, etc.

Whatever comes of this, the government has certainly squandered a fortune in tax dollars. Of all the things they could have spent that money on, they chose to spy on the people that pay their salaries.

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