A bipartisan group of US senators introduced the USA Rights Act [text] on Tuesday that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] warrantless internet surveillance program.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text], which is set to expire at the end of the year, is used by US intelligence officials to combat national and cyber security threats, and it allows officials to tap into and store digital communications from foreign suspects. The program also incidentally stores communications [JURIST op-ed] of American citizens, including if a citizen has conversations with foreign targets. Those communications can then be subject to warrantless searches, including by the FBI.
The bill, led by Ron Wyden (D) and Rand Paul (R), would reform Section 702 to end the warrantless “back door” searches of American calls, emails, texts and other communications. In addition, the bill would impose additional oversight provisions, such as allowing individuals to raise legal challenges and expand the oversight jurisdiction of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board [official website].
In a letter [picture] to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wyden wrote:
I am writing to urge the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hold an open mark-up of legislation reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This legislation will have enormous impact on the security, liberty, and constitutional rights of the American people. The public has therefore taken a keen interest in the outcome of this mark-up and in specific proposed reforms to Section 702.
The Senator went onto say that a “transparent legislative process is a fundamental hallmark of our democracy.”