The Wisconsin Republican who authored and introduced the Patriot Act in 2001 denounced the National Security Agency’s phone tracking as “un-American,” and questioned the constitutionality of collecting American phone records in bulk.
“As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation,” Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. said in a statement on Thursday.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday, Sensenbrenner said the tracking “appears to be an overbroad interpretation of the Act” and demanded that the attorney general explain the legality of such a move under the Patriot Act.
“These reports are deeply concerning and raise questions about whether our constitutional rights are secure,” he wrote in the letter. “How could the phone records of so many innocent Americans be relevant to an authorized investigation as required by the Act?”
In 2006, the year Sen. Diane Feinstein says the NSA’s phone tracking began, Sensenbrenner editorialized in favor of the Patriot Act’s renewal, saying that “no rights have been violated,” and “congressional negotiators added more than 30 civil liberty safeguards not included in current law to ensure that the Patriot Act’s authorities would not be abused in the future.”
But, as The Atlantic points out: Sensenbrenner became disillusioned with how the act was being used just a year later in 2007 remarking then and in 2010 that he was “shocked” and “betrayed” by how the government was using the bill.
But Sensenbrenner continues to defend the act, saying it is being misused.
“I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act,” he said Thursday. “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”