Target: U.S. Senate
Goal: Offer more civil liberties for those under surveillance
On July 29, 2014, a surveillance reform bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate, which—if passed—would greatly improve on the privacy and rights issues inherent in the current House bill. The U.S.A. Freedom Act would limit the bulk collection of communication records, improve transparency to the public and enhance civil liberties for those under surveillance.
Currently, any information deemed “relevant” to an ongoing investigation by intelligence agencies can be collected from business records. What is defined as relevant by the intelligence agency, however, may be different from what the business in question or the courts deem relevant. The proposed reform would end this ambiguous language, clearly defining the term for the purpose of data collection.
The U.S.A. Freedom Act would broaden surveillance reporting, making more information available to Congress and the American public, such as the number of individuals affected by communication collection and redacted opinions and summaries of data collection activities. The reform would also allow businesses the right to disclose data requests they receive from surveillance authorities.
Another significant change to the current bill supports better civil liberties in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts (FISC), requiring that a panel of advocates be appointed to argue on behalf of the rights of affected individuals in some cases. This representation allows for a two-sided debate that the current bill does not.
Many reforms to safeguard privacy and rights both of U.S. citizens are still necessary. The proposed U.S.A. Freedom Act, however, offers key changes and a huge step forward. Urge the Senate to pass the bill quickly to ensure immediate and necessary reform.
The U.S.A. Freedom Act hopes to close certain loopholes in the current surveillance bill, which threaten civil liberties. The reform would limit the number of communications agencies may collect and ensure the protection of any information collected purposefully or accidentally.
The bill enforces better reporting of surveillance activities and requires public disclosure of reports and previous actions and decisions of the surveillance community. Under the new bill, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board would be given subpoena authority to investigate matters related to privacy and national security.
Much more work is needed to safeguard the rights and privacy of U.S. citizens, but the U.S.A. Freedom Act presents important reform necessary to that end. I urge you to swiftly pass this bill and protect American citizens from practices that threaten their rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Hustvedt via Wikimedia Commons