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Tech firms and privacy groups press for curbs on NSA surveillance powers - The Washingt... - 0 views

  • The nation’s top technology firms and a coalition of privacy groups are urging Congress to place curbs on government surveillance in the face of a fast-approaching deadline for legislative action. A set of key Patriot Act surveillance authorities expire June 1, but the effective date is May 21 — the last day before Congress breaks for a Memorial Day recess. In a letter to be sent Wednesday to the Obama administration and senior lawmakers, the coalition vowed to oppose any legislation that, among other things, does not ban the “bulk collection” of Americans’ phone records and other data.
  • We know that there are some in Congress who think that they can get away with reauthorizing the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without any reforms at all,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, a privacy group that organized the effort. “This letter draws a line in the sand that makes clear that the privacy community and the Internet industry do not intend to let that happen without a fight.” At issue is the bulk collection of Americans’ data by intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. The NSA’s daily gathering of millions of records logging phone call times, lengths and other “metadata” stirred controversy when it was revealed in June 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The records are placed in a database that can, with a judge’s permission, be searched for links to foreign terrorists.They do not include the content of conversations.
  • That program, placed under federal surveillance court oversight in 2006, was authorized by the court in secret under Section 215 of the Patriot Act — one of the expiring provisions. The public outcry that ensued after the program was disclosed forced President Obama in January 2014 to call for an end to the NSA’s storage of the data. He also appealed to Congress to find a way to preserve the agency’s access to the data for counterterrorism information.
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  • Despite growing opposition in some quarters to ending the NSA’s program, a “clean” authorization — one that would enable its continuation without any changes — is unlikely, lawmakers from both parties say. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading opponent of the NSA’s program in its current format, said he would be “surprised if there are 60 votes” in the Senate for that. In the House, where there is bipartisan support for reining in surveillance, it’s a longer shot still. “It’s a toxic vote back in your district to reauthorize the Patriot Act, if you don’t get some reforms” with it, said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). The House last fall passed the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the NSA program, but the Senate failed to advance its own version.The House and Senate judiciary committees are working to come up with new bipartisan legislation to be introduced soon.
  • The tech firms and privacy groups’ demands are a baseline, they say. Besides ending bulk collection, they want companies to have the right to be more transparent in reporting on national security requests and greater declassification of opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  • Some legal experts have pointed to a little-noticed clause in the Patriot Act that would appear to allow bulk collection to continue even if the authority is not renewed. Administration officials have conceded privately that a legal case probably could be made for that, but politically it would be a tough sell. On Tuesday, a White House spokesman indicated the administration would not seek to exploit that clause. “If Section 215 sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program,” National Security Council spokesman Edward Price said in a statement first reported by Reuters. Price added that allowing Section 215 to expire would result in the loss of a “critical national security tool” used in investigations that do not involve the bulk collection of data. “That is why we have underscored the imperative of Congressional action in the coming weeks, and we welcome the opportunity to work with lawmakers on such legislation,” he said.
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    I omitted some stuff about opposition to sunsetting the provisions. They  seem to forget, as does Obama, that the proponents of the FISA Court's expansive reading of section 215 have not yet come up with a single instance where 215-derived data caught a single terrorist or prevented a single act of terrorism. Which means that if that data is of some use, it ain't in fighting terrorism, the purpose of the section.  Patriot Act § 215 is codified as 50 USCS § 1861, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/1861 That section authorizes the FBI to obtain an iorder from the FISA Court "requiring the production of *any tangible things* (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)."  Specific examples (a non-exclusive list) include: the production of library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records containing information that would identify a person." The Court can order that the recipient of the order tell no one of its receipt of the order or its response to it.   In other words, this is about way more than your telephone metadata. Do you trust the NSA with your medical records? 
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USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk Collection For First Time, Critics Say - T... - 0 views

  • After only one hour of floor debate, and no allowed amendments, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that opponents believe may give brand new authorization to the U.S. government to conduct domestic dragnets. The USA Freedom Act was approved in a 338-88 vote, with approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting against. The bill’s supporters say it will disallow bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has regularly ordered phone companies to turn over such data. The Obama administration claims such collection is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that Section 215 does not provide such authorization. Today’s legislation would prevent the government from issuing such orders for bulk collection and instead rely on telephone companies to store all their metadata — some of which the government could then demand using a “specific selection term” related to foreign terrorism. Bill supporters maintain this would prevent indiscriminate collection.
  • However, the legislation may not end bulk surveillance and in fact could codify the ability of the government to conduct dragnet data collection. “We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding. “The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.” In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
  • “While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans,” Congressman Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said in a statement explaining his vote against the bill.
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  • Not addressed in the bill, however, are a slew of other spying authorities in use by the NSA that either directly or inadvertently target the communications of American citizens. Lawmakers offered several amendments in the days leading up to the vote that would have tackled surveillance activities laid out in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Executive Order 12333 — two authorities intended for foreign surveillance that have been used to collect Americans’ internet data, including online address books and buddy lists. The House Rules Committee, however, prohibited consideration of any amendment to the USA Freedom Act, claiming that any changes to the legislation would have weakened its chances of passage.
  • The measure now goes to the Senate where its future is uncertain. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to schedule the bill for consideration, and is instead pushing for a clean reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions that includes no surveillance reforms. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have threated to filibuster any bill that extends the Patriot Act without also reforming the NSA.
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    Surprise, surprise. U.S. "progressive" groups are waging an all-out email lobbying effort to sunset the Patriot Act. https://www.sunsetthepatriotact.com/ Same with civil liberties groups. e.g., https://action.aclu.org/secure/Section215 And a coalition of libertarian organizations. http://docs.techfreedom.org/Coalition_Letter_McConnell_215Reauth_4.27.15.pdf
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Weakened surveillance reform bill is 'yesterday's news', civil libertarians say | World... - 0 views

  • When the premiere surveillance reform bill of 2014 is reintroduced in the current Congress, it can count on antipathy and even opposition from many of the civil libertarian activists who pushed it to the brink of passage last year. The USA Freedom Act, a bill that aims to stop the National Security Agency (NSA) from its daily collection of US phone records in bulk, is set for a 2015 revamp after failing in the Senate last November. Supporters pledge to unveil it late this week or early next week.
  • This time, as reported by the Guardian, the bill is shaping up to be the preferred piece of legislation to extend the lifespan of a controversial part of the Patriot Act, known as Section 215. The NSA uses Section 215 to justify its domestic mass surveillance. The FBI considers it critical for terrorism and espionage investigations outside typical warrant or subpoena channels. Section 215 expires on 1 June. The bill’s architects consider the USA Freedom Act the strongest piece of legislation to roll back the domestic reach of US surveillance that Congress will pass. But a new coalition of civil libertarian groups on the left and the right is already looking past the bill, in the hopes of broadening what is possible – something they consider realistic, thanks to the intelligence community’s fervent desire to avoid the expiration of Section 215.
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    I'm pushing for no legislation. Let section 215 sunset in peace.
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