U.S. senators propose new privacy bill following surveillance scandal

A group of U.S. senators lead by Senator and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy have introduced a new legislation that aims to improve government oversight and accountability when it comes to domestic surveillance.

Leahy, along with Senators Mark Udall, Ron Wyden, Mike Lee, Richard Blumenthal and John Tester, are not asking for the recently disclosed surveillance at the hands of the NSA to stop, but for it to be more transparent and more mindful of privacy.

According to Leahy, this FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 is aimed at narrowing the scope of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act orders by requiring that the Government to show both relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power, as well as at adding more meaningful judicial review of these orders and abolishing the one-year waiting period before a recipient can challenge a nondisclosure order for them.

The bill also wants to strengthen legal review of the minimization procedures when it comes to the collecting, storing and disseminating of data regarding U.S. persons, as it is already done when information is collected via wiretaps, physical searches, and pen register and trap and trace devices.

As the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act is concern, the new legislation asks that the sunset date of its most recent Amendments Act is changed from June 2017 to June 2015, so that the mattes of national security letters (NSLs), the “gag orders” that usually follow it, and that of public reporting on their use is addressed sooner.

“The June 2015 sunset will also align with the PATRIOT Act sunsets, enabling Congress to address these FISA provisions all at once, rather than in a piecemeal fashion. This legislation will also increase accountability by clarifying the scope of annual reviews currently required by law extends to all agencies that have a role in developing targeting and minimization procedures,” Leahy said in an official statement, adding that it will also require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to conduct a comprehensive review of the FISA Amendments Act and its impact on the privacy rights of Americans.

“The American people deserve to know how laws like the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act are being used to conduct electronic surveillance, particularly when it involves the collection of data on innocent Americans. The American people also deserve to know whether these programs have proven sufficiently effective to justify their extraordinary breadth,” he concluded.

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