Vermont delegation seeks legislative response to government snooping

By:  Nicole Gaudiano

WASHINGTON — Vermont’s congressional delegation is pushing proposals that would limit the government’s surveillance powers and reveal authorities’ rationale in deciding when to use those powers.

The proposals respond to mounting criticism of the National Security Agency’s recently revealed secret program to collect data on Americans’ phone calls and foreigners’ emails kept on servers in the United States.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proposed legislation last week to limit the NSA’s and FBI’s powers to secretly track Americans’ phone calls as part of terrorism investigations.

Sanders warned against moving toward “an Orwellian world” in which the government and private companies would know “virtually everything we say and do in our private lives.”

“What I’m hearing from constituents is a great concern that virtually every single phone call made in the United States of America by Vermonters and everybody else is on file with the United States government,” Sanders said in an interview. “The calls that we are getting tell me that folks are concerned about the need to protect privacy.”

Sanders’ bill would require authorities seeking to monitor business records to show they have reason to believe, based on specific facts, that the records are relevant to a specific terrorism investigation. The current standard, which some say requires minimal evidence, has resulted in a program that violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, Sanders said.

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