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Politics

Vern Buchanan and Dennis Ross Tee Off on NSA

August 21, 2013 - 6:00pm

Two Republican congressmen from Florida are up in arms about recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) continues to monitor tens of thousands of Americans who are not linked to terrorism.

This week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the declassifying of three secret U.S. court opinions showing how the NSA snooped into as many as 56,000 emails a year over three years and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism. The opinions will also show how the NSA revealed the error to the court and how the agency gathered Internet communications.

The opinions showed that when the NSA reported to the court in 2011, it was collecting thousands of Internet communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism. The court ordered the NSA to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it.

These reports have spurred two Florida congressmen in the Republican majority to take action.

From his perch in the Congressional Privacy Caucus, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., pointed to a report last week that the NSA engaged in almost 2,800 illegal incidents where they obtained personal communications, and called for Congress to back major reforms.

These latest revelations of government overreach are extremely disturbing, said Buchanan on Wednesday. Our strength as a nation flows from the values and freedoms laid out in the Constitution, including the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Its imperative that both parties work together and institute reforms to protect the privacy and liberties of the American people.

Buchanan pushed an amendment last month ensuring the NSA cant collect information on Americans not under investigation, but it was narrowly defeated. The congressman promised to continue fighting on the matter when Congress meets again next month.

It is a slippery slope if we allow our basic freedoms to be eroded in the name of security, said Buchanan. The time has come for Congress to address these issues in a transparent, public manner.

Buchanan was joined by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., who expressed his outrage against the NSA this week. Ross pointed to a bill he filed two months ago as a needed reform.

This is outrageous and frightening, Ross said this week after the news broke about the extent of NSA monitoring. The NSA has overstepped its lawful bounds and violated the trust of all Americans. We cannot let this happen. We must rein in this out-of-control agency through permanent reforms such as those in the bill I introduced, the Relevancy Act. The Relevancy Act would require that any investigation explain the need and relevancy for all business records data collected under the authority of the PATRIOT Act. What the NSA did is unlawful and we cant allow for this type of overreach and gross negligence.

The Relevancy Act would limit NSA investigations to specific individuals or groups and, as Rosss team put it, it requires the tangible things to be related to a person that is subject to an investigation.

Reach Kevin Derby atkderby@sunshinestatenews.com. Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at allison@sunshinestatenews.com.

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