Bill to Curb Bulk Collections Earns TCP Support

The Constitution Project endorses legislation to curb bulk collection of American’s telephone and internet records by the National Security Agency and to provide greater transparency of policies underlying government surveillance programs, according to Virginia Sloan, president of the bipartisan legal watchdog group.  Called the USA Freedom Act, the bipartisan legislation was introduced on October 29 by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).  When it was introduced, the bill had more than 70 cosponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate.

“We applaud this effort to pass comprehensive intelligence reform that prohibits the government’s massive and suspicionless spying on the American people and that gives them the information they need to determine whether government surveillance has gone too far,” Sloan said in a press release.  She said the new bill provides “a good balance between protecting the American people’s fundamental civil liberties and privacy rights, while still preserving the ability of the intelligence community to gather the targeted information it needs to help keep America safe.”

The USA Freedom Act would:

  • end the bulk collection of Americans’ records, including the call records collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act;
  • close loopholes in Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act that permit reverse targeting and warrantless searches of domestic communications content;
  • require the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans it accidentally collects;
  • increase transparency by allowing communications providers to disclose the number of surveillance orders they receive, mandate that the government publish how many people are subject to surveillance orders, and make public to the fullest extent possible significant opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) since July 2003; and
  • create an Office of the Special Advocate tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISC’s closed proceedings
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