Senators introduce reform initiative in light of aggressive NSA surveillance

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Extensive National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance has led four senators to introduce the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Act, a reform initiative designed to maintain privacy without impeding security.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke live Wednesday about the proposal, which will amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and seek to improve the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

In the act, amendments to FISA will prohibit bulk collection of phone records for law-abiding citizens, but will allow for tracking of suspected terrorists. It will also prevent mass collection of emails. Additional amendments will forbid that national security letters (NSL) – letters used by government agencies to demand information – be used for bulk collection and will mandate more public reporting on how NSLs are used.

“Section 702 of FISA also contains provisions that have led to serious breaches of constitutional liberty,” according to the report.

Amendments to Section 702 will close “back door searches,” preventing government agencies from finding workarounds to obtaining a warrant before collecting phone and email records from Americans.

Additional revisions will toughen the stance against targeting foreigners to seek out communications with Americans, add tougher restrictions on the use of unlawfully collected information, and prohibit government agencies from collecting communications about targets.

With respect to the FISC, the proposal seeks to create an independent constitutional advocate who will “argue against the government when the FISC is considering significant legal and constitutional questions.”

Furthermore, it will require declassification of FISC opinions on interpretations of constitutional matters and will permit law-abiding citizens affected by government data collection to argue claims that the surveillance is constitutional.

The proposed legislation also looks to increase transparency by allowing organizations that cooperate with government officials to disclose more information, as well as requiring more public reporting on surveillance in general.

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