By Daniel DeMarco |Staff Writer|
The coalition of congressmen have introduced anti-government surveillance legislation.
This is in response to months of reports on the National Security Agency’s unlawful spying on citizens, according to a press release from the Young Americans For Liberty (YAL).
“YAL seeks to identify, educate, train and mobilize students on the ideals of individual liberty and the U.S. Constitution,” as stated on their press release.
The purpose of this legislation (USA Freedom Act) would be to reform the USA Patriot Act of 2001.
The Patriot Act was constructed and passed in the wake of September 11, 2001.
The original intent was to strengthen the country’s security on the domestic level.
It was also intended to provide more power to law enforcement agencies in order to seek out and stop terrorists.
The Patriot Act has been controversial from day one and many feel that it infringes on the civil liberties of U.S. citizens while others believe that essentially gives the government too much power.
More specifically it is the right to privacy and the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
This is protected under the fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that concerns critics.
Another concern are the rights of due process and a trial by jury, protected by the fifth and sixth Amendments.
Critics feel that these amendments are infringed because witnesses and suspects of terrorism can be detained without lawyer access, hearings or any formal charges.
On the other side, supporters feel it has been vital to many terrorist investigations since its implementation.
One main argument for supporters is that there has not been one terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.
In fact, according to the National Security Agency (NSA), dozens of terrorist plots have been stopped due to powers given by the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act was supposed to expire in 2011, but was given a four-year extension when President Barack Obama signed the Patriot Sunsets Extension Act of 2011.
The extension only applied to three provisions of the initial act: Searches of business records, roving wiretaps, and conducting surveillance on individuals.
These extensions are not related to terrorist groups who are suspected of terrorist-related activities.
The new legislation was authored by Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat, and House of Representatives member James Sensenbrenner, Republican, who were both original supporters when the Patriot Act was first adopted.
It is actually the second attempt to reform the Patriot Act, as earlier this year another amendment failed to pass in July by only 12 votes.
The reform is meant to limit the government’s ability to conduct surveillance without having a proper search warrant.
According to PolicyMic.com, recent documents have been leaked that reveal the NSA has access to hundreds of millions of accounts from just Yahoo and Gmail alone.
These documents were released shortly after the discovery that the NSA also was accessing the private communications of 35 world leaders.
PolicyMic.com also states that 58 percent of Americans do not approve of the governments ability to gather information in this manner.
According to The Washington Post, Americans (18-29 years old) who have the highest disapproval of the Patriot Act and what it allows the government to do.