Major New Anti-NSA Bill Dropping Next Week With Powerful Support

from the this-could-get-interesting dept

We already knew that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner was getting ready to release a major new anti-NSA spying bill called the USA Freedom Act, and Derek Khanna has just revealed many of the details of the bill, scheduled to be introduced in both houses of Congress this coming Tuesday. It will be backed by Sensenbrenner in the House and Pat Leahy in the Senate, and will have plenty of co-sponsors (already about 50 have signed up) including some who had initially voted against the Amash Amendment back in July. In other words, this bill has a very high likelihood of actually passing, though I imagine that the intelligence community, and potentially the White House, will push back on it. For Congress, gathering up a veto-proof majority may be a more difficult task.

The bill appears to do a number of good things, focusing on limiting the NSA’s ability to do dragnet collections, rather than specific and targeted data collection, while also significantly increasing transparency of the activities of the NSA as well as the FISA court when it comes to rulings that interpret the law.

  • End bulk data collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. This is the program that collects metadata on every phone call based on a twisted interpretation of the law and a thorough revisionist dictionary for words like “targeted,” “relevance,” “search” and “surveillance.” Sensenbrenner, who crafted much of the original PATRIOT Act insists that when he wrote it, it was intended to already ban this kind of dragnet. The new bill will make that explicit. Similarly, it appears that the bill will require the intelligence community to be much more proactive in filtering out unnecessary information and deleting information collected incidentally.
  • Fixing the FISC: As many have recommended, the law would make sure that a public advocate can be present to be an adversarial presence, arguing in favor of protecting Americans’ privacy. There will be a special Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) created for this role. Somewhat surprisingly, the OSA will even be allowed to appeal decisions that the FISA court makes if it believes they stray from the law or the Constitution. That could be a very big deal.

    Separately, the DOJ will be required to declassify all FISC decisions from the past decade that involve “a significant construction or interpretation of the law.” That is, no more secret law-making by the FISC.

  • Greater transparency for companies on the receiving end of demands for information. This would make it so companies that get orders to hand over information can reveal numbers of requests, effectively stopping the existing gag orders which prevent us from knowing how often the NSA is demanding info from internet companies.

This legislation doesn’t solve all the problems, but it does clearly attack the most egregious actions by the NSA and the wider intelligence community. I imagine those in that community will fight back hard on this. We’ll be hearing outrageous claims about how people will die if they can’t spy on all of us. But, in the end, if the NSA hadn’t continued to expand its spying efforts, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

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Comments on “Major New Anti-NSA Bill Dropping Next Week With Powerful Support”

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ShellMG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Obama does whatever he wants, laws be damned. He’s intentionally delayed portions of Obamacare (mostly for his corporate donors) and I think the talking heads are insane fools, insisting Obama will accept a delay of the personal mandate.

He could sign this bill and make a big show of it, then turn around and tell Eric Holder not to enforce it. SOP.

Davd says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As if Eric Holder needed anybody to tell him when he’ll be making friends by shitting on his sworn duties.

When is the last time you saw him going after perjury? Probably not since he examined and patted himself after getting a forbidden taste of the executive power in the Fast and Furious debacle. And it’s not like there hasn’t been a lot of open lying under oath to congress since then.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually they might have screwed up regarding that tactic. They’ve been using the ‘Everyone is going to die unless we can do whatever we want!’ rallying cry for so long people seem to be getting jaded, seeing it as the desperate tactic that it is.

No, the FUD that will be raised to try and stop or weaken this bill isn’t what should be worried about, the ‘goodies’ the NSA will pull out of their databases to ‘persuade’ senators/congresscritters, that is likely to be their main counter-attack.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Honestly the ‘blackmail’ angle is me being optimistic, as the other alternatives, that of ‘representatives’ that are only representing themselves and those in power, or don’t care what happens to the peons as long as those in power stay that way, seem rather less pleasant than people who would serve the people that elected them, but are forced to do otherwise.

Anonymous Coward says:

forgive my skepticism but i dont think it’s gonna make a craps worth of difference what bill is drafted or what laws are redefined or implemented. the NSA and other ‘security agencies’ will continue doing the same as they have been doing for the last fifty years! the fact that they have been caught means nothing. if it did, there would have been some sort of regression of actions but instead, there hasn’t even been a slow down. instead the FISA court has passed for the same shit to carry on for another year, so you can bet that regartdless of what happens in the near future with new laws, there will be no let up at all.
after everything has changed as far as laws etc are concerned, all that will happen is the agencies will be a bit more careful not to get caught but they will carry on, as before, as if nothing has happened! the one major change that will come into effect is the e ensuring that no one gets to carry off data about happenings ever again.
when you consider that Obama hasn’t even tried to get or managed to get things changed, and he’s supposed to be the numero uno, what hope is there of them taking notice of anyone else?

marcus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m not too optimistic of this bill either. Most likely the bill will be significantly watered down as it goes through Congress. The US Intelligence community still has a lot of political clout and can always say that they need this power “in the interests of national security” or secretly break the law and since they now have a tighter lid to prevent someone like Edward Snowden from leaking valuable information on this, they can keep it secret. I imagine if you did a poll, a majority of people would say they are opposed to the NSA and want it abolished but this isn’t how our politicians feel about the NSA and domestic spying. If it becomes law it will be watered down and most likely the NSA will violate this law and since it’s all top secret, no watchdog group could determine if the NSA is following the rule.

Anonymous Coward says:

Separately, the DOJ will be required to declassify all FISC decisions from the past decade that involve “a significant construction or interpretation of the law.” That is, no more secret law-making by the FISC

Do that means we will be able to see the FISC metadata to see if they are really doing what they are saying they are doing?

out_of_the_blue says:

So, with clearly Unconstitutional "Patriot Act" now accepted as "normal", time for a little PR.

“Sensenbrenner, who crafted much of the original PATRIOT Act” — Anything that known criminal supports is at best poisoned. As I’ve noted, all “legislation” now does the exact opposite of stated purpose. Anyone actually worried about the surveillance state or Constitution would never have voted for the “Patriot Act”. Best we can hope for here is that will be sheer PR, doesn’t make it worse.

Don’t believe any aspect of this “leak” until you see people actually in jail for the known crimes. It’s just theater. — And WHY does Mike continue to run these items that can only serve to distract?

Indict, try, and JAIL.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So, with clearly Unconstitutional "Patriot Act" now accepted as "normal", time for a little PR.

Except that you had to throw in the obligatory jab at Mike that was uncalled for. What you don’t understand is fighting these sorts of things takes real pressure and time. Keeping these stories in the press is necessary to enact change. These guys would like nothing better than for all of this to just blow over with nothing ever changing. Stories like this are helping to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Rapnel (profile) says:

You know? I've been thinking..

I’d like to see a two-pronged approach. Clearly, reigning in the current masters of the universe is of the utmost importance yet I’m wondering if we can’t do one better while we’re busy adjusting humanity to their digitally increased realm of existence. Our digital tracks would not exist if we were not here to provide them. Websites, cookies, Instant messages, phone numbers, envelopes and their contents, financial transactions – these are the tools we each build with – are their results and manifestations not ours? Without me there would be no track, without me their would be nothing to copy, without me as an identifiable target I would have no track to collect and collate. Nobody should have the authority or right to rebuild my steps, actions much less an entire existence without my approval and especially not without my knowledge. There is no right to recreate or surveil my past, present or future without just cause. I own the copyrights to my creations, do I not? Can we not sue the government for these civil infractions? New laws giving ours its just due? It should not be legal to collect random tracks without a warrant and you definitely can’t collate that shit without a bigass warrant.

Or am I dreaming?

PGEddington (profile) says:

What real reform legislation looks like

I’ll withhold final judgement on the pending Conyers-Sensenbrenner bill until I see the bill text, but here’s a reality check based on the summary provided thus far by the bill’s authors:

Conyers-Sensenbrenner would leave the Surveillance State intact. It would NOT restore the probable cause-based warrant standard required by the Fourth Amendment.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner does not end the PATRIOT Act’s “sneak and peak” search provision, the expansive use of “national security letters”, or abolish the radical “material support” provision that was used to prosecute staff of the Humanitarian Law Project in California.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner does not even address the NSA encryption subversion scheme.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner provides no protections for national security whistleblowers like Snowden or Drake–and this debate would not even be happening without the disclosures those men have made.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner does nothing to strengthen oversight mechanisms to actually provide the public with some assurance that the bulk collection schemes really will end.

And it’s chances of actually getting to the House floor? Right now, zero. Boehner, Cantor and Goodlatte (House Judiciary chairman) are all apostles of the Surveillance State. So is the leadership of HPSCI (which would have to clear the bill as well since it clearly falls within HPSCI’s purview).

So a lot of time and energy is going to be expended promoting a bill that 1) leaves the Surveillance State intact, 2) does not address other critical abuses revealed by Snowden, et. al., and 3) has no prayer of making it out of the Judiciary Committee, much less to the House floor.

If you want to see what a real reform bill looks like, check out the Surveillance State Repeal Act (HR 2818).

anonymous says:

Never say never

Wrong approach. NSA is filled with control freaks who just will invent new words. The best solution is for foreign nations to demonstrate their rights to shoot spies and for the Obama Administration to shut the N.S.A the EF down, splitting up the functions of internal law enforcement and external espionage, while making it absolutely illegal for the government to maintain financial, medical, personal and any kind of speculative data on American citizens not involved in an active criminal investigation.

That’s IT! Period! End of subject! Do anything less, and you’ve done nothing. …and please criminally process those who HAVE taken it upon themselves to reinvent the wording of the law. We really need to make sure that government by way of fear applies to those who would challenge our civil rights, not us. Better yet! Give them to those terrorists out there as a gift from Uncle Sam, but not before exterminating their entire family and their means of procreating, just to make it perfectly clear that you don’t go against your own community without paying the price.

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