Not mutually exclusive
Many Americans and members of Congress who justly are upset over the National Security Agency's unfettered data collection also will be upset if an undetected terrorist threat results in violence against Americans or American interests.
Therein lies the problem amid the ongoing disclosure of the NSA's surveillance - how to gather data without violating citizens' privacy.
Chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees, Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have introduced the USA Freedom Act to give some appropriate shape and direction to the NSA's surveillance activities.
The bill would create safeguards such as a special advocate to promote privacy in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That court handles NSA wiretap requests, when the NSA decides to seek approval. The bill also would require public release of some FISA court decisions.
Rather than allowing the NSA to collect vast amounts of data because it can, the bill would mandate court orders. It also would preclude "reverse targeting," or targeting foreigners to obtain data involving an American.
Service providers also would be allowed to disclose the numbers of NSA data requests they receive, and with which they comply.
To ensure ongoing scrutiny, the bill requires periodic reauthorization by Congress.
It never has been true that security and privacy are mutually exclusive. The bill establishes a framework to recognize that in practice.