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A group of senators from both parties introduced a new comprehensive intelligence reform bill in an attempt to curtail the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency (NSA).
This comes just days after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called for new legislation and said that NSA regulation isn’t working.
It was also recently revealed that the NSA considers critics of the U.S. drone program to be “propagandists” and “adversaries,” that the NSA hired French hackers and that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court doesn’t believe that bulk data collection violates privacy.
The latest legislation, the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, was introduced on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the bulk collection of Americans’ records by the NSA.
If passed, the bill would amend certain sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is used by the NSA as the legal basis for their widespread intelligence gathering.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sums up the basics of the bill:
- It would end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. Sen. Udall reiterated that there is no evidence that the program even works.
- It would stop the “backdoor searches” of Americans’ communications. Under the warrantless surveillance program approved in 2008, the government filters, collects, and stores the content of international communications, even when an American is on one end. This limitation would prevent the NSA from actually using that data unless they can prove to a judge that there is some nexus to terrorism.
- It would provide for an independent advocate within the FISA Court process, known as a “constitutional advocate,” to represent privacy interests.
- It would ensure that law-abiding Americans impacted by government can have their day in court, constitutionally challenge the government’s surveillance, and seek redress.
CNET also points out that the bill would strengthen the prohibition of “reverse targeting.” This would stop the government from accessing the records of a foreign individual solely as a means to surveil an American who has communicated with the foreigner.
The bill would also impose a statute on the government’s use of information collected unlawfully. If passed, that would cover a great deal of information.
“There is growing, bipartisan sentiment in Colorado and across the country that the way the NSA and our intelligence agencies are balancing Americans’ privacy rights and our security is fundamentally out of whack,” Udall said in a press release.
“We need to end the NSA’s collection of millions of innocent Americans’ private phone records and focus on the real problem: terrorists and spies,” Udall said. “These aren’t vague or abstract threats to our liberty. These dragnet searches are happening right now. I am proud to lead this bipartisan push to protect Americans’ privacy rights and ensure that our pursuit of security does not trample our constitutional liberties.”
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.