OpenTheGovernment joined a letter of support today for bipartisan legislation to reform the warrantless surveillance law that gives the government sweeping authority to collect communications of people within and outside the U.S. — Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The legislation, introduced by Senator Paul and Senator Wyden, is the strongest reform proposal currently on the table as Congress debates whether to reauthorize, reform, or allow the law to expire before the end of the year.
The legislation includes some tangible transparency measures that would reduce the potential for privacy, civil liberties and civil rights abuses stemming from the broad surveillance programs authorized under Section 702. Notably, the bill includes reporting requirements for domestic law enforcement use of information collected under the cover of foreign intelligence and national security purposes. Some of the highlights of the legislation include the following:
Additionally, the legislation ends access by domestic law enforcement agencies to Americans’ communication without a probable cause warrant or any evidence of criminal activity (closing the “backdoor search loophole”), enacts strict limits on law enforcement’s use of data in the Section 702 database, and creates a system of notice to defendants where warrantless data has been used in domestic criminal cases.
“We applaud the bipartisan efforts underway in the Senate to address the problems surrounding the government’s far-reaching spying legal authorities,” according to Lisa Rosenberg, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment. “This legislation would apply critical sunlight and accountability mechanisms to surveillance programs that have raised serious constitutional concerns, and ensure important safeguards to protect the public from potential government overreach.”
Read the coalition letter here.