Senators push bill requiring warrant for USA data under spy law

Senators push bill requiring warrant for USA data under spy law

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which gives federal agencies their snooping powers, is set to expire at the end of the year without reauthorization from Congress and lawmakers are debating various proposals that could limit spy agencies surveillance authority. It is co-sponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.; Ed Markey, D-Mass; and Jon Tester, D-Mont.

The USA Rights Act focuses on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial program that was first revealed to the public in 2013 by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to privately vote on Tuesday on a bill to reauthorize Section 702 that privacy advocates say will largely lack their reform priorities.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group in Congress proposed legislation to rein in a controversial loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that provisions US spy agencies with a legal loophole to conduct warrantless surveillance on American citizens.

Through Section 702, the NSA collects massive amounts of communications, which include emails, messages and phone metadata. The act also allows the government to eavesdrop on American citizens and their communications with foreign citizens without a warrant.

"Requiring a warrant for a search of information or personal data if the inquiry is about an American citizen is simply the constitutional and right thing to do", said Rep. O'Rourke, a sponsor of the House version of the bill.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives earlier this month introduced legislation meant to install new privacy protections for 702 surveillance, including a partial restriction on the FBI's ability to access American data that would require agents obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime. Our bill protects individual freedoms while maintaining intelligence agencies the ability to continue to protect the United States.

The letter's signatories include former directors of U.S. national intelligence, the CIA and the National Security Agency; and a former attorney general. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and FreedomWorks support the bill, and companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Law enforcement is barred from using any 702-collected communication "to, from, or which contains a reference to a United States person" in a domestic criminal proceeding against that person-unless the Attorney General determines that it "affects, involves, or is related to the national security of the United States" or any investigation involving death, kidnapping, serious bodily injury, destruction of critical infrastructure, "cybersecurity", transnational crime of any sort (with special emphasis on narcotics trafficking), human trafficking, and a wide array of offenses against minors (including solicitation for sex, solicitation for prostitution, production or possession of child pornography, and distribution of sexually explicit material containing a minor, the federal offense used to go after teen sexters). "The law was clearly never intended for this egregious use, and the USA RIGHTS Act finally makes that clear", she said.

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