Legislation introduced to stop NSA's bulk collection of phone records

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Two lawmakers are aiming to put an end to the  mass collection of citizens' communications by the National Security Agency (NSA) .

On Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., joined forces to introduce the USA Freedom Act, which proposes to champion Americans' privacy rights by laying out oversight measures for the NSA's surveillance.

The lawmakers proposed the measures in a 118-page bill (PDF), and also provided a two-page outline highlighting the major provisions of the legislation.

“The bipartisan, bicameral USA Freedom Act will rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA), increase the transparency of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) decision-making, provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, create an independent advocate to argue cases before the FISA Court and impose new and shorter sunsets on controversial surveillance authorities,” the outline for the bill said.

Sen. Leahy has repeatedly taken a stance on matters of cyber security and privacy by introducing legislation to fellow lawmakers.

With its introduction, the bill tackles two of the most talked-about pieces of legislation from a privacy perspective – particularly in light of continued fallout from the Snowden leaks. The controversial laws arguably shield the government from having to answer for privacy invasions that come about in its self-proclaimed quest to protect national security.

Specifically, the USA Freedom Act would bring reform to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the collection of call records, including the date and time of calls and outgoing and incoming phone numbers. While the government says it does record the content of calls under law, other information, like the duration of the call and the origin of the metadata record, are within the NSA's reach.

In addition, the new legislation aims to block the NSA's “back door access to Americans' communications” by requiring court orders for data collected without individualized warrants under section 702 of FISA [the FISA Amendments Act],” the bill's outline revealed.

The proposed legislation also addresses the “reverse targeting” of Americans, defined as “targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American.”

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