Now that the House has passed its version of a bill to reform our nation’s surveillance programs, OTG and our partners will be working to make sure that any similar legislation passed by the Senate includes much stronger transparency provisions. As we have written, the House opted to severely weaken reporting requirements in the original Sensenbrenner-Leahy proposal that would have given the public a reasonable understanding of the scope of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. HR 3361 replaced them instead with potentially misleading reporting requirements that would likely allow vastly understating the scope of communications acquired or reviewed by the NSA.
In addition to making sure that the Senate’s version of the bill includes meaningful reporting requirements, we will also be working with our partners to make sure the Senate understands that the fundamental problem with the NSA’s surveillance programs is that they are based on secret legal interpretations. It will only be a matter of time before there is another scandal unless the public – and Congress – understands how the Executive Branch and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is interpreting the law and thus what it believes it has the authority to do under the law.