Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, author of a bill to curb the National Security Agency mass collection programs, said restricting government surveillance would be a top priority for 2014.
Leahy told Vermont Public Radio on Monday that he fears more intrusive government surveillance programs if Congress doesn’t act to reform the NSA.
“If we also allow a situation where the government can ultimately know every single thing about you – all your private dealings, from your medical records to your personal correspondence – which is what this will lead to because we live in an electronic age today that is very frightening,” Leahy said.
Leahy co-sponsored the USA Freedom Act with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. – the author of the Patriot Act – to require the NSA to establish probable cause in a federal intelligence court before it can conduct surveillance on an individual. The bill would end the mass collection of phone records and metadata from innocent Americans.
Leahy cited Judge Richard Leon's recent ruling that the NSA programs were “likely unconstitutional” and President Obama's own review panel's assessment that the mass collection programs should be reformed. Leahy said these were evidence that the NSA had gone too far.
In addition to pushing the USA Freedom Act, Leahy’s committee will also conduct more hearings on government surveillance, starting with a special review hearing on Jan. 14.