Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Sensenbrenner Hides His Role In Creating The Surveillance State

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 9, 2013

“Tex” Sensenbrenner’s been caught yet again — this time by Marcy Wheeler:

To hide his role in championing the use of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act to collect of Americans’ phone data and other “tangible things”, one of the architects of that legislation, Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, edited a quote in a letter (pdf) to Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday to suggest he never knew how the FBI and NSA were using the authority his legislation had granted:

“Section 215 has been used to obtain driver’s license records, hotel records, car rental records, apartment leasing records, credit card records, and the like.”

Sensenbrenner quoted from Acting Assistant Attorney General Todd Hinnen’s testimony (pdf) before the House Judiciary Committee in 2011:

“It has never been used against a library to obtain circulation records … On average, we seek and obtain section 215 orders less than 40 times per year.”

Sensenbrenner used this passage to claim DOJ had incorrectly told the committee it was using the provision “sparingly”.

The letter was a response to the Guardian’s report that FBI and NSA had used of Section 215 to collect data from all of Verizon’s customers for a three-month period starting in April. Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein made it clear on Thursday that collection program has been used for seven years, presumably back to the first Patriot Act extension in 2006, suggesting the program has been used for years to collect the phone data on all Americans.

What Sensenbrenner didn’t reveal in his letter to the attorney general is that his ellipsis in that passage replaced a sentence from Hinnen’s testimony making clear that Section 215 authorized secret collection:

“Some orders have also been used to support important and highly sensitive intelligence collection operations, on which this committee and others have been separately briefed.”

So it happened that – as Sensenbrenner reminded Holder in the letter – the author of the Patriot Act tried to distance himself from the language he had pushed to retain in 2005 that has been used ever since to authorize dragnet collection of Americans’ call records – all the while denying that the DOJ has briefed Congress on this secret collection.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for anyone on the evening TV news to notice things like this.

2 Responses to “Sensenbrenner Hides His Role In Creating The Surveillance State”

  1. Charles II said

    It should be said that (a) the Administration only briefs a subset of members of Congress on intelligence matters and forbids them from discussing anything of that briefing, and (b) DoJ probably doesn’t even know what NSA is doing. As I understand it, the FBI submits requests for certain information from NSA. NSA determines whether they can have it, then does the search.

    • Yet Sensenbrenner is just fine with that — in fact, has (just as Feinstein has) resisted any and all efforts to change that. So to see him suddenly try to distance himself from it is darkly amusing. At least Feinstein is quite willing to own up to what she’s backed, reprehensible as it is.

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