President Obama co-sponsored legislation when he was a member of the Senate that would have banned the mass collection of phone records that his administration is now engaged in.
The SAFE Act, introduced by former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), would have amended the Patriot Act to require that the government have "specific and articulable facts" to show that a person is an "agent of a foreign power" before seizing their phone records.
The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee in 2005, but never received a vote. It had 15 co-sponsors in all, including then-Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who are now members of Obama’s Cabinet.
"The bill very much limit[ed] the scope of these secret orders to people who are believed to be bad guys instead of innocent citizens," said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at The George Washington University. "It was great that Obama sponsored it at the time, and too bad he has abandoned that principle."
Gregory Nojeim, an attorney for the Center for Democracy and Technology, agreed that the SAFE Act would have made the mass NSA collection of phone records illegal.