Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Reform NSA Spying Policies

October 29, 2013
Press Release
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today co-sponsored a bill to improve privacy protections for Americans and rein in the National Security Administration’s (NSA) sweeping domestic surveillance programs. The USA FREEDOM Act primarily targets reforms to Section 215 of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, which has been widely blamed for the bulk collection of innocent Americans’ personal data.
 
“The NSA’s blatant violations of personal privacy and freedoms – and abuse of the USA PATRIOT Act’s original intent – are absolutely unacceptable,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who has repeatedly expressed concerns about the NSA’s surveillance programs, and spoke in support of an Amash-Conyers proposal to strip funding from the NSA in July. “The USA FREEDOM Act is the first piece of major legislation in Congress designed to make necessary reforms to the sweeping surveillance programs which violate basic levels of personal privacy of the American people.  As recent headlines continue to reveal, we still do not know how extensive and invasive these programs truly are. The American people deserve a balanced solution that focuses on keeping our country safe, and ensuring the protection of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.”
 
The USA FREEDOM Act targets four key areas of surveillance reform which would end the dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and ensure that other authorities cannot be used to justify similar dragnet collection. The bill also provides more safeguards for warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act, includes significant privacy and oversight provisions, creates a Special Advocate to focus on the protection of privacy rights and civil liberties before the FISA Court, and requires more detailed public reporting about the numbers and types of FISA orders that are issued.
 
The USA FREEDOM Act was introduced in the House today by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act.
 
Complete text of the legislation is available here.
 
SUMMARY
 
The USA FREEDOM Act targets four key areas of surveillance reform:
 
End bulk collection of Americans’ communications records
 
  • The USA FREEDOM Act ends bulk data collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act
  • The bill would strengthen the prohibition on “reverse targeting” of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American.
  • The bill requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs.
Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
 
  • The USA FREEDOM Act creates an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s closed proceedings. The OSA will have the authority to appeal decisions of the FISA court.
 
Increase Transparency
 
  • The USA FREEDOM Act would end secret laws by requiring the Attorney General to publicly disclose all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) decisions issued after July 10, 2003 that contain a significant construction or interpretation of law. 
  • Internet and telecommunications companies would be allowed to publicly report an estimate of (1) the number of FISA orders and national security letters they received, (2) the number of FISA orders and letters they complied with, and (3) the number of users or accounts on whom information was demanded by the government.
  • The bill would require the government to make regular public reports estimating the total number of individuals and Americans that were subject to FISA orders authorizing electronic surveillance, pen/trap devices, and access to business records.
 
National Security Letters (NSL)
 
  • The USA FREEDOM Act adopts a single standard for Section 215 and NSL protection to ensure the Administration doesn’t use different authorities to support bulk collection.  It also adds a sunset date to NSLs requiring that Congress reauthorize the government’s authority thereby ensuring proper congressional review.

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