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There is a new proposal coming before the Senate for reforms of the USA Freedom Act. There is still hope for real NSA surveillance reform if this version proves solid. The bill is said to limit mass data collection powers. It should also ensure proper supervision and reporting of all requests. Privacy and civil rights provisions are also an important component of this new bill.
New Senate NSA Surveillance Reform Bill
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy brought in the compromise revisions last Tuesday. Leahy was involved in the introduction of the USA Patriot Act. He says that this surveillance reform legislation will be as remarkable as the Patriot Act was 13 years ago. This time however, he is pushing for restrictions on government data gathering and surveillance. He says that this bill marks the distinction between government control over citizens’ data versus Americans having the power to direct government action.
Leahy’s proposal seeks to accomplish three vital goals for real NSA surveillance reform. The bill states provisions for circumstances under which phone record data can be collected. It also ensures that the government will be forthcoming about the details of the data that they gather. Civil liberties and privacy rights will also be supported through a panel appointed by the FISA Court.
Data Collection Component
US surveillance reform centers on curbing the government’s ability to gather massive amounts of phone data records. The issue is made more sensitive by violations of specific rights that prevent the collection of Americans’ data. This Senate surveillance reform bill will grant the government permission to collect data within two hops as opposed to the previous three hops. And this will only happen when the government can present sensible and specific reasons. They can then use search terms that are justified as being connected to a terrorist threat. They cannot search by area code or zip code.
The new NSA surveillance reform bill would force the government to report on the number of people they collected data from. They would also have to detail how many of these people are Americans, at least in their best estimation. The report must also include how many searches were done on American citizens. The bill includes provisions for company reporting on government data requests as well.
Privacy and Civil Rights Component
The FISA Court will have to select a group of advocates under the surveillance reform bill. This panel will take care of the privacy rights and civil liberties aspects of any government data searches. Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the USA Patriot Act, approves of the new version of the surveillance reform bill. He stated that this bill contains better privacy protections than the House bill that passed recently. It also has the support of the Obama Administration and the intelligence community. Certain tech companies and privacy organizations are also backing up this surveillance reform version.
Where the Bill Falls Short
Some important aspects of proper surveillance reform are not fully covered under the new bill. Government surveillance under Executive Order 12333 is not addressed. Section 702 of FISA can also be used to continue current surveillance practices. And the deliberate cracking of encryption standards is also not dealt with. These are vital aspects of appropriate surveillance reform that need to be included for legislation to work.