A bipartisan group of House and Senate members introduced the USA FREEDOM Act last month in an attempt to restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the bulk collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance programs. The Sensenbrenner-Rokita NSA Reform Bill (another name for the USA FREEDOM Act) includes significant privacy and oversight provisions, detailed reporting on the number and types of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) orders issued, and the creation of a Special Advocate post, whose purpose is to advocate for the civil liberties and privacy rights before the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) co-authored an op-ed article published in the Politico whereby they highlighted the need to ensure the protection of Americans’ civil liberties, while preserving the intelligence communities ability “to gather information in a more focused way, as was the intent of the PATRIOT Act.” Both Messrs. Leahy and Sensenbrenner agree that Congress must provide our intelligence community with the necessary tools to keep our country safe, but to date, acknowledge that the intelligence community has failed to adequately justify their expansive use of current laws.
If passed and signed into law, the Bill would require that the Applicant (i.e. Government) establish “reasonable grounds” that the tangible things sought are “relevant” and “material” to an ongoing investigation. The Applicant would be required to create a statement of proposed “minimization procedures” to ensure that the search would be as narrowly tailored as possible. The Applicant would also have to submit a statement of facts showing reasonable grounds that disclosure of the Government’s interest in collecting data would result in (a) endangering the life or physical safety of any person; (b) flight from investigation; (c) destruction or tampering with evidence; (d) intimidation of potential witness; (e) interference with diplomatic relations; (f) altering a target that the government has an interest; (g) seriously endangering the national security of the U.S.; and (h) an explanation of how the nondisclosure requirement is narrowly tailored to address a specific harm.
Are these parameters sufficient enough to balance the civil liberties of Americans’ versus protecting our national security? What type of “minimization procedures” would put your mind at rest to ensure that the intelligence community has not overstepped their bounds? Does the legislation go far enough, if at all, in reclaiming what we lost as a result of 9/11, in regards to our privacy rights, business interests, and standing in the international community?