I support this bill. It’s past time for the top to bottom public review of agency powers. The promise of a sunset clause on the Patriot Act has been broken.
History leaves no doubt. Powerful agencies like the NSA, FBI and local police will assume limits on old technology does not apply to new technology. See Capability is Driving Policy, Not Just at the NSA But Also in Police Departments
The USA FREEDOM Act is Real Spying Reform
Over the last several months, members of Congress have introduced at least two dozen spying reform and transparency bills. Today, a new proposal called the USA FREEDOM Act from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was introduced to significantly limit the collection and use of Americans’ information under our nation’s spying laws. The ACLU strongly supports the legislation.
The bill is notable for its sponsors alone.
Rep. Sensenbrenner was the lead author of the Patriot Act and now is the chair of the House’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Crime. A conservative member of Congress, he has repeatedly supported surveillance laws in the past, but now he’s leading the charge for reform. According to Rep. Sensenbrenner, two consecutive White Houses have wrongly used his Patriot Act to collect the phone records of innocent Americans, and he wants it to stop. “This misinterpretation of the law threatens our First, Second and Fourth Amendment rights,” Rep. Sensenbrenner recently said. “Congress never intended this. I will rein in the abuse of both the Patriot Act and the U.S. Constitution with the support of the American public.”
Sen. Leahy is the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which also has jurisdiction over the Patriot Act and FISA. He also believes the government’s indiscriminate collection of Americans’ records must end, because the “government has not made its case that this is an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on Americans’ privacy rights.”
The USA FREEDOM Act
Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet Collection, and Online Monitoring Act
H.R. 3361/ S. 1599
Purpose: To rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC.
End bulk collection of Americans’ communications records
• The USA Freedom Act ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
• The bill would strengthen the prohibition on “reverse targeting” of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American.
• The bill requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs.
Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
• The USA Freedom Act creates an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings. The OSA will have the authority to appeal decisions of the FISA court.
• The bill creates new and more robust reporting requirements to ensure that Congress is aware of actions by the FISC and intelligence community as a whole.
• The bill would grant the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena authority to investigate issues related to privacy and national security.
• The USA Freedom Act would end secret laws by requiring the Attorney General to publicly disclose all FISC decisions issued after July 10, 2003 that contain a significant construction or interpretation of law.
• Under the bill, Internet and telecom companies would be allowed to publicly report an estimate of (1) the number of FISA orders and national security letters received, (2) the number of such orders and letters complied with, and (3) the number of users or accounts on whom information was demanded under the orders and letters.
• The bill would require the government to make annual or semiannual public reports estimating the total number of individuals and U.S. persons that were subject to FISA orders authorizing electronic surveillance, pen/trap devices, and access to business records.
National Security Letters
• The USA Freedom Act adopts a single standard for Section 215 and NSL protection to ensure the Administration doesn’t use different authorities to support bulk collection. It also adds a sunset date to NSLs requiring that Congress reauthorize the government’s authority thereby ensuring proper congressional review.
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