US Senator introduces bill to curb privacy abuses by US intelligence agencies

Gavel

In response to the way recent events have played out, a new bill has been introduced in the US Senate that would reform FISA and the Patriot Act to better protect privacy of Americans. The bill is called the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013. It’s a direct response to the recent news that through a project called PRISM, the NSA is collecting data from several tech companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and more. Of course, another program that collects phone metadata information is also involved.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who introduced the bill, commented on the secret government programs:

“The recent public revelations about two classified data collection programs have brought renewed attention to the government’s broad surveillance authorities, and they underscore the need for close scrutiny by Congress.”

The phone metadata collection program is conducted under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, while Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Acts (FISA) is responsible for the NSA’s widescale data collection program.

Leahy’s bill was introduced to the senate on Monday, and it already has support from several other senators. The bill is supposedly going to “strengthen privacy protections, accountability and oversight related to domestic surveillance.”

Through the bill several reforms are proposed one of which will tighten up Section 215 of the Patriot Act to ensure that the government provides evidence as to an authorized investigation and ties to a foreign group before digging for data. Hopefully, this will help close down some of the loopholes in the act. Many believe that the government has used Section 215, to spy on otherwise normal citizens that actually have no ties to a terrorist organization.

The bill also proposes that the sunset date for the FISA Amendments Act be pushed up to June 2015, from June 2017. According to Leahy this is “to ensure timely re-examination of how these authorities are being utilized.” In other words, he’s urging the proper officials to reassess the programs much sooner than originally planned.

“These are all commonsense, practical improvements that will ensure that the broad and powerful surveillance tools being used by the government are subject to appropriate limitations, transparency and oversight.”

Senator Leahy was actually trying to accomplish the same thing last year, by shortening the sunset and acquiring greater transparency of FISA for all, but the Senate rejected his proposal. Due to recent events, let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. We could really do with some transparency right about now.

[via PC World]

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