Senator Patrick Leahy said he’s optimistic that his legislation that makes it harder for the government to monitor the emails and phone calls of Americans, will be approved by Congress in the coming months.
Currently, the Obama Administration collects email and phone information from millions of people looking for links to foreign terrorist groups.
The Administration said it doesn’t read the emails or listen to the phone calls unless that link has been clearly established. The authorization for this surveillance program comes from a special Foreign Intelligence Court.
Leahy’s bill would make a big change in this process. It would require the federal government to prove to the Court that there’s probable cause to believe that a link exists before any surveillance can take place.
The chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, California Senator Diane Feinstein, said the legislation will make the country less safe from a future terrorist attack. Leahy doesn’t agree.
“We can do this and still keep the United States safe,” said Leahy. “So long as we understand throughout our lifetime there will always be people who want to do the United States harm with or without this legislation."
Leahy said there’s another compelling reason to pass his bill and that’s protecting people from abuses of the federal government.
“What I want to do is also keep us safe within our own country from our own government," said Leahy. "And I don’t care who we have as President, a Democrat or Republican, I want to make sure that we do not give so much power to our government whatever government it is that we are not really safe as Americans.”
As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Leahy has held a number of hearings on this issue. He expects a spirited debate over the bill, but in the end, he thinks it will pass:
“So the whole mood is changing. I think we have a good chance,” said Leahy. “It’s going to be difficult no matter what because we will have those who say we don’t dare take a chance.”
Leahy’s bill would also create a public advocate who would review the government’s requests to conduct specific surveillance programs in the future.