Sometimes Republicans get it right, usually after first being terribly wrong. But when sanity does prevail, we should be thankful all the same. That’s why Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is that rare right-winger I want to commend.
True, he screwed up a decade ago in response to the 9/11 attacks, when he co-wrote the USA PATRIOT Act, which allowed government agencies—led by the NSA—to seriously undermine our individual freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism. But high points go to the man for seeing the error of his ways after Edward Snowden’s revelations that the NSA has used the act’s provisions to dig up every bit of data on the private communications of most Americans, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
An outraged Sensenbrenner teamed up with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont to coauthor a bill preventing the NSA from abusing the law. In November 2013, addressing the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Sensenbrenner noted: “The constant stream of disclosures about U.S. surveillance since June has surprised and appalled me as much as it has the American public and our international allies. I have therefore introduced legislation along with Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that will curtail surveillance abuses and restore trust in the U.S. intelligence community.”