February 11, 2014 is The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Congress is considering two major bills.
- The USA Freedom Act curtails NSA surveillance abuses.
- The FISA Improvements Act attempts to legalize bulk data collection of phone records.
We need to tell Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act and amend it to make it even stronger.
USA FREEDOM ACT
The USA Freedom Act (S. 1599) is a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
If passed, this bill would be a substantial improvement to America’s laws regarding mass surveillance.
- It brings new levels of transparency to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court)
- It introduces a special advocate to champion civil liberties in the FISA court
- It appears to create new statutory limits on mass surveillance by the NSA
However, this bill is a floor, not a ceiling. Here’s how it could be improved:
- It could clarify in plain language that bulk surveillance is illegal and prevent the FBI from issuing National Security Letters without prior review by a judge.
- Include language to stop the NSA from undermining international encryption standards.
- Have stronger language to protect the privacy of people outside of the United States.
The USA FREEDOM Act is one step in the right direction, with many more steps that need to follow.
FISA IMPROVEMENTS ACT
The FISA Improvements Act, is a bill written by the intelligence community and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
If the FISA Improvements Act (S. 1631) were to pass:
- It would codify the controversial bulk telephone records surveillance program of the NSA.
- It would allow the NSA to continue to collect telephone records of hundreds of millions of Americans not suspected of any crime.
- It would permit the NSA to restart the bulk collection of Internet communication records—an extremely invasive, secret program the government attempted under dubious legal ground but abandoned because it wasn’t effective.