WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill today that would scale back the NSA’s surveillance powers by requiring a specific phone number or other “selector” before the NSA can collect certain records, provide for greater transparency to prevent abuse, and create a public advocate to represent privacy concerns in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts (FISC). The American Civil Liberties Union voiced support for the bill.
Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, had this comment:
“We commend the Senate Democratic and Republican co-sponsors of this version of the USA Freedom Act, which significantly constrains the out-of-control surveillance authorities exposed by Edward Snowden. While this bill is not perfect, it is the beginning of the real NSA reform that the public has been craving since the Patriot Act became law in 2001. The Senate bill is an improvement over the version passed by the House, but problems remain. It is important that the public understand that there is much more work to be done to narrow the government’s overbroad surveillance authorities to bring them in line with our Constitution and values. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have miles left to go.”
The ACLU recommends changes to the bill that would narrow the definition of permissible “selectors” to prevent overbroad collection, provide strict timeframes for destroying data collected on innocent people, strengthen the declassification requirements for FISC opinions, and grant the special advocate greater authority to proactively participate in intelligence court proceedings.