Franken pushes surveillance transparency bill as Congress weighs its options

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
After heavy backlash following revelations about American surveillance programs over the summer, the federal government has begun releasing a little bit of information about those programs.
  • It would require officials to disclose how many people are targets of government surveillance programs, an estimate how many of them are Americans, and how many people’s communications the government actually collects under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • And it would lift a gag order preventing communication or technology companies from discussing the amount of information they give the government under FISA. Companies are currently unable to acknowledge what’s been, by now, widely reported, that the government has asked them to provide information from their users under federal intelligence laws. (A Google lawyer, under direct questioning Wednesday, said he was barred from providing a number.)
  • The first, from Leahy, would completely overhaul the NSA surveillance program, ending the practice of so-called “bulk collection” of communication records by requiring the government to justify the records’ relevance to terror investigations. Privacy groups like the bill and it’s received bipartisan support on the hill. (Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner, who wrote the Patriot Act, introduced the House version.) Bankston called the bill a “collection of very meaningful reforms,” and the tech industry is generally supportive as well.
  • The other bill, from Sen. Diane Feinstein, has received far fewer plaudits. Her bill would codify the NSA’s surveillance programs but attach some transparency provisions to it. Privacy and tech groups from the ACLU to the Electronic Frontier Foundation have slammed the bill, but the Senate Intelligence Committee approved it last month.  

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/14/2013 - 12:52 pm.

    Wrong Priority

    Senator Frankin’s priorities are flat out wrong. His #1 concern for Minnesotan and America should be the ACA, aka Obamacare. The Democratic party decided high deductible plans with HSAs were “substandard” when in fact consumers were very happy with them. They were low cost and provided for catastrophic health care insurance.

    Shame on President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Al Frankin for misleading Minnesotans and Americans.

  2. Submitted by Sean Fahey on 11/14/2013 - 01:54 pm.

    It’s a giant priority

    So it’s flat out wrong to work on stopping government overreach in this area, but should be priority #1 to stop what you see as government overreach in another area? Even if you don’t like the ACA how can you think it’s not at least a pretty high priority to stop illegal surveillance on Americans?

    Doing something about the unaccountable security regime has common bipartisan support from Americans from all quarters. Why not get something done on this issue where we are demonstrably having our constitutional rights violated? Then we can go back to arguing about Obamacare.

    I wish the ACA was our biggest problem in this country. There bigger threats to our liberty than a new tax that gives out heathcare.

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