FISA 2013: 10 Things You Need To Know About The New Accountability And Privacy Protection Act

on June 26 2013 12:59 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced a bill dubbed the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013. According to Sen. Leahy's website, the purpose of the bill is to "bolster existing privacy safeguards and require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability in connection with the government’s expansive domestic surveillance powers." The bill is co-sponsored by Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

But what does the bill entail exactly? After examining the bill and speaking with Sen. Leahy's Washington, D.C., office, here are 10 key components of the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 you need to know about.

1. Oversight would be enhanced

The bill proposed by Sen. Leahy would "enhance oversight by expanding the reporting requirements." What's more, "further court review" would be added as well.

2. The bill's focus is on foreign terrorist groups or powers

The new bill would allow the government to obtain records via Section 215 of the Patriot Act only in cases where it can determine that the data is relevant to an authorized investigation that's linked to one of these three categories: "a foreign agents, power or group." You can read Section 215 as well as the entire Patriot Act here.

3. The bill would preserve the current "sunset" date on roving wiretaps

The FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 would keep the June 1, 2015, sunset date in place on roving wiretaps. Roving wiretaps allow the government to continue tapping a terrorist suspect's phone even if they switch phone numbers or service providers.

4. Increased public awareness of National Security Letters

The bill aims to expand public reporting on the use of National Security Letters and authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including an unclassified report on the impact of the use of these authorities on the privacy of United States persons. Here is a clear definition of what a National Security Letter is, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate group:

"These letters served on communications service providers like phone companies and ISPs allow the FBI to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens' private communications and Internet activity without any meaningful oversight or prior judicial review. Recipients of NSLs are subject to a gag order that forbids them from ever revealing the letters' existence to their coworkers to their friends or even to their family members much less the public."

5. Increased regulatory requirements

The proposed bill "requires Inspector General audits on the use of Section 215 orders, NSLs, and other surveillance authorities under the USA PATRIOT Act."

6. Increased standards for roving wiretap targets

The bill would require law enforcement agencies to identify "with particularity" the targeted person(s) of the request under FISA. However, what "with particularity" means exactly is unclear. We are awaiting comment from Sen. Leahy's office.

7. Increased standards for FBI procedures pertaining to NSLs

The proposed FISA 2013 bill would require the FBI to "retail an internal statement of facts demonstrating the relevance of information sought to its investigation before it can issue a National Security Letter (NSL)."

8. Increased challenge rights for recipients of Patriot Act Section 215 orders

Under the proposed FISA bill, any entity that receives such an order would be able to challenge the order immediately. As it currently stands, there is a one-year waiting period before a recipient could challenge such an order. There's also an automatic presumption in the government's favor, which Sen. Leahy's bill would also eliminate.

9. Statutes authorizing use of NSLs would reach a "sunset" date in two years

The proposed FISA 2013 bill would add new June 2015 sunsets authorizing use of NSLs.

10. Increased government accountability pertaining to requests for records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The bill would require the government to provide a "standard for obtaining records through Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act by requiring the government to show relevance to an authorized investigation."

What do you think of the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy? Would you support such a bill? Why or why not? Do you think the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 is missing any key provisions? If so, which ones? Sound off in the comments below.

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