Bipartisan Group Led By Wyden And Udall Introduce Legislation Aimed At Comprehensive Reform Of Surveillance Programs

from the a-better-balancing-of-security-and-liberty dept

Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul held a press conference today to discuss proposed legislation for reforming the NSA’s surveillance programs. The bipartisan group assembled here is looking for actual reform, rather than the light touch-ups that have made up the majority of the administration’s contributions to the national security discussion.

Their proposal breaks down roughly into five key points (hat tip tothe ACLU’s Michelle Richardson for tweeting updates during this press conference).

The first proposal is to eliminate the Section 215 bulk records collections. As Wyden points out, no evidence exists that this data collection has led to the prevention of any terrorist attacks. Blumenthal adds to this point later in the press conference by referring to the oft-quoted “54 attacks prevented” statement as “bogus.” Wyden also points out that the email records collection was already shut down (in 2011) for exactly this reason: no proven effectiveness. Wyden states that, with this bill, the dragnet collection of law-abiding citizens’ information will be “outlawed.”

Second, the bill will close the backdoor search loophole in the FISA Amendments Act that allows intelligence agencies to rifle through the communications of millions of Americans without a warrant. Originally, this was intended to search only foreign communications but that loophole (which had been closed in 2008) was reopened by a secret rule change in 2011. This would simply fix what should never have been there in the first place.

Third, Blumenthal’s FISA Court Reform bill would be folded in, which would provide for a special advocate to act as an adversarial party in FISA court deliberations. As is pointed out later, this addition wouldn’t unnecessarily burden the court. The advocate wouldn’t be present for every warrant authorization but would sit in whenever major policy questions are being discussed in order to present the privacy and civil liberties side of the issue.

Fourth, the bill adds in Rand Paul’s fix for the ongoing “standing” problem. As the system is set up now, it is extremely difficult to be granted standing to sue the government for civil liberties violations because of the secrecy surrounding the programs (although Snowden’s leaks have greased the wheels a bit). Up until very recently, the courts have stated that if you can’t prove the government is surveilling you, then you can’t sue them for surveilling you. And since the government is in no hurry to hand out the data it’s collected on American citizens, it’s nearly impossible to obtain that proof. This would expand the ability of Americans to pursue the government in court for any ill effects suffered as a result of the government’s surveillance activities.

Finally, the legislation will target the abuse of NSLs and strengthen the protections against reverse targeting.

This won’t completely dismantle the NSA’s programs but it will greatly reduce its domestic intelligence gathering. As Udall points out later in the conference, intelligence agencies will still be able to target terrorists and spies — they just won’t be able to sweep up non-targeted bulk collections of data on American citizens — and they’ll have to do better than simply claim the data might be “relevant.”

As is now the new “normal,” the backers of this bill are drawn from both parties. The NSA’s overreach has managed to unite parties in a way the administration has been unable to do for nearly five years. As Wyden states, the narrow defeat of the NSA-defunding amendment proposed by Justin Amash was a “wakeup call” that demonstrated that many representatives were willing to cross party lines to protect civil liberties. That, in and of itself, is promising. But taking the first step as a bipartisan group should allow the bill’s backers to draw support from both sides of the aisle, something that will greatly increase the chances of its success.

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Comments on “Bipartisan Group Led By Wyden And Udall Introduce Legislation Aimed At Comprehensive Reform Of Surveillance Programs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Good proposals, but I still prefer Rush Holt’s “Repeal the Surveillance State Act”, which doesn’t just “reform” the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act, but completely repeals them.

This is a good close second, though. Let’s pass at least one of these already! Call your congressmen and tell them to support these bills:

out_of_the_blue says:

From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

This TOO is classic DC: propose a new law instead of enforce current ones on known crimes committed by known criminals.

This will have zero effect.

ONLY criminals being tossed in jail will have an effect: if that happened by some one-in-million fluke or divine intervention, then the rest would scrupulously observe existing laws for the next little while.

But the only people in DC who get jailed are good guy whistleblowers, while the criminals don’t get even a reprimand.

If this bunch would jst call loudly and often for indictments and JAIL, it’d definitely be better even if equally ineffective.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

There’s been another post that ootb did today I was amazed that it got reported. For him this has been an unusual day, maybe even a record that two posts were reasonably good posts. Posts that if anyone else had done would probably have been ok.

No I didn’t report his posts today. Most of them were already done.

He will never have better posts unless the community encourages the right behavior. As long as he trolls I am all for his posts to be reported but when he actually gets on the stage with something that isn’t batshit crazy we should all let it stand as is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

No, the post is not wrong and the community reporting it is also not wrong. It is just a consequence of OOTB’s own making.

Look, if OOTB didn’t spend the vast majority of the time on this site engaging in trollish behavior, the community here would not be so eager to report all his comments. OOTB has conditioned this community to expect the worst from every comment he makes and they respond in kind by reporting it and moving on to the next commenter who is likely more worthy of their time to talk with. Trust and credibility are earned.

I would, personally, much rather OOTB refrain from trollish behavior and engage in civil debate, even with his dissenting views on most subjects. Even if he just wanted to play devil’s advocate all of the time, there are good and proper ways to go about that. But, too often, he brings up the same points that have been (repeatedly) proven to be false and when shown, he doubles down on it in the comments on the very next article, week after week after week.

He, like aj, have proven one thing to me. He’s not here for debate, only to disrupt, to troll. One good comment once every blue moon does not a reformed troll make. It requires a concerted effort by OOTB over many, many comments to pull back from abyss that he’s willingly thrown himself into.

If you don’t agree, that’s fine. We can just agree to disagree and move on. But, this is my feelings on the matter.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

All I am saying is please use the Report button responsibly.

Maybe it would be used better if Reporting weren’t free. It’s too abundant. What if it cost $1 to use each time, but only one Report was needed to block a comment?

Then maybe trolls wouldn’t troll so hard because they’d be putting money in Mike’s pockets! And good comments like this one would remain up because Reporting would now a scarce commodity.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

There was one comment in an article this week he gave a very reasonable and provided good argumentation. It wasn’t hidden and got an insightful mark.

I believe what got him reported was the title: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

As you can see, the community actually does use the report button quite responsibly with one or two errs along the way.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

I kinda agree, but… well, when you clamor on like he’s famous for doing, you just become a crashing cymbal or a clanging gong. If you speak without love or respect for your opponent, you make people not care about what you have to say, thus you become wrong even when you’re right.

So I can’t have any sympathy for him and how he’s earned another flagged comment, and it’s not like it’s censored either. Even if he were to claim to repent, I’d be suspicious of him and expect him to not be sorry for everything he’s done, but sorry he got caught for doing it. As long as he keeps blaming everyone else, why should he get respect from everyone else?

BentFranklin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

This article is about people from different viewpoints agreeing that the NSA is out of control, which is great. And guess what, the same thing happened here: people who usually disagree agreed. That should be a good thing but it was rejected. I hope what happened here today isn’t copied by Senators Wyden and Udall just because they might not like other things Rand Paul has done.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

I don’t think Blue ever offered to work with the Techdirt community though. If he were to actually come out and say something like that, like Rand Paul no doubt did with Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, Richard Blumenthal, then it would probably be a different story. Instead, every correct or insightful comment he makes seems to come about by accident.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

You mean his idea that every criminal will obey the law if some criminals are thrown in jail? Thus leading to the corollary that innocent people should go to jail ebcause they are probably guilty of SOMEthing? Letting them go would be a message that whatever acts they are accused of is okay after all!

Or do you mean his pointless jibe at DC, proposing a new law isn’t worth doing to fix current abuses and they should instead just focus on ENFORCING our current bad laws?

You also forget, hes all for the jailing of whistleblowers, as has been seen in several past comments.

Lastly there is no jab at Mike or mention of google or mega corporations, making me believe this is not the standard OOTB.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: From the will-also-be-ignored dept.

There is nothing wrong with this post. I don’t understand why people reported this.

This is simple Bent. Look at the mouse-over text of the report button:

“report this comment as abusive, spam, trollish, or otherwise inappropriate

Now, I tend to agree that the report button gets overused at times, but it is being used in the fashion it was designed to be used. Like the above AC said, Blue tends to get reported a lot, even when the comment may not deserve it, but that’s a situation that Blue created all by himself by exhibiting trollish behavior over many years now.

Anonymous Coward says:

While I welcome reigning in the abuses of the NSA, I don’t think this goes far enough. We’ve had more than enough evidence to point out that the NSA is a rabid dog gone bad. At each and every point that has been disputed by them, sometime later it has been shown that was a flat out lie. I see nothing in all this dealing with that, which will continue to present problems in the future.

Heads need to roll over this. This attitude of Gen. Alexander’s to just up and do things without the worry about if it is legal or not has it’s own complications that we have been shown the results of in spades. Telling the NSA that spying on resident American’s internal communications within the US is and was fair game. It got this way because the definition of what constitutes relevant was changed to allow what the FISA court ruled they could not do. This is because of this attitude of do it no matter what the law says. This will continue to result in problems until that problem itself is addressed. The only way to cure it is to remove those who think this is the way to operate a system.

Enough is enough. Watered down isn’t going to work. Change the rules and lop heads and you will come closer to getting the results you seek.

Namel3ss (profile) says:

Something like this is LONG overdue. I approve. Although I agree Holt’s bill is probably better, this is a good start.

There must be a SHITLOAD of angry people out there (besides us techdirt folks) calling their congress critters for them to actually stop trying to sweep it under the rug and actually start doing something about it.

Here’s hoping all the pro-nsa assholes in congress don’t water it down so as to be completely ineffective.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

A good start

I can see that if this actually gets enacted (and don’t start hoping, there’s probably no chance of it happening) we might even see real reform:

Shutting it all down.

That’s the only way we can have true, lasting reform. Defund the programs, lay off all of the people involved with this, charge those who broke the law (and don’t tell me any of this was legal. I’m not buying it for one second.)with various crimes and remove the head of the NSA and his friends.

It’s called ‘gutting’ and it’s the only thing that will actually work. No half measures. All of it or none of it.

Why? Because you leave one stone in place, they’ll just build it up again. They’re sneaky, devious and underhanded..and they’re legion, those who would steal our rights from under our noses without so much as a ‘thank you for your Constitution!”

Oh, and take the TSA down as well. They’re just as bad.

Don Quijote says:

Not good enough

Quite simply, the NSA must not be allowed even the capability to engage in large scale domestic surveillance, whether prohibited by law or not. Thus:

No more back doors in network equipment: ISPs must deliberately and specifically enable wiretaps on named targets. No indiscriminate collection of data to sift through and mine after the fact.

No more back doors in encryption software: It makes us all less safe, Americans included.

No more breaking the SSL chain of trust: SSL communications need to remain encrypted up to the very end of their route. Targeted communications may be captured through the website itself.

No more sharing of data with other agencies unless directly related to combating terrorism and foreign espionage.

FISA court needs to be accountable to the public and the Supreme Court: Secrecy must last only as long as it is necessary to defend against specific threats. Otherwise the court’s decisions must be subject to public scrutiny and judicial oversight all the way up to SCOTUS.

Engineer_in_IN says:

Outsourced NSA

After reading the other Techdirt story on Nigeria’s attempt to form their own NSA-esque program, it made me consider a possibility the NSA might consider if America no longer becomes a viable option for them to conduct their surveillance. It could be possible that they just move their surveillance program (personnel, equipment) to another country and spy on us from there, acting as a foreign power (since as we all know from our illustrious president “that’s just what nations do, they spy on each other”). Conversely they could just give that to the GCHQ or equivalent and have them forward the final dragnet data to them. Both options for the purpose of saying they’re not doing the spying themselves, but cooperating with allied intelligence agencies or whatnot.

Thoughts? Would that be a possibility? With so many other nations looking into their own NSA programs, is it too far-fetch to consider our own NSA making use of them when they can no longer operate their dragnets at home?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Outsourced NSA

While it is possible, I would look at the NSA and the government to do what it was doing before it went crazy. That is teaming up with corporations to supply them with the data.

Used to be when the NSA didn’t just rob your email and internal communications they also weren’t allowed by law to gather that data. Nor could any of the government do it without a wire tap or warrant. What they did instead was pay 3rd party to do it for them and just turn over the data. See they could then say it wasn’t them, yet they still had the same data. It was still an end run around the law but now they aren’t even trying.

Engineer_in_IN says:

Re: Re: Outsourced NSA

That does sound like an easier approach than what I was thinking about. They may just wait for this all to “blow over” and either try harder to keep it hidden by using 3rd-part entities like you said (or starting their own, like shell companies. Or maybe try again under a new acronym (like, say……….the FBI?).

I’m not sure this is ever going to truly stop since the technology/capability to do it exists, is set up, and government has had a taste of its power. The public/private sector has to keep two steps ahead of these agencies in terms of encryption and security in order to keep it from being widespread. I have high hopes for those technologists out there that are working on rebuilding the foundation of the Internet in order to fill in the holes made by backdoors commissioned by the NSA.

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