A double round o’ Freedom Fries for everyone!
The US Senate Judiciary Committee has unveiled its answer to a controversial spying program run by the NSA and used by the FBI to fish for crime leads.
Unsurprisingly, the proposed legislation [PDF] reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – which allows American snoops to scour communications for information on specific foreign targets.
It also addresses the biggest criticisms of the FISA spying: that it was being used to build a vast database on US citizens, despite the law specifically prohibiting it; was being abused to do a mass sweep of communications, rather than the intended targeting of individuals; and that there was no effective oversight, transparency or accountability built into the program.
But in case you were in any doubt that the new law does not shut down the expansive – and in some cases laughable – interpretations put on FISA by the security services, you need only review the proposed legislation’s title: the USA Liberty Act. Nothing so patriotic sounding can be free from unpleasant compromises.
And so it is in this case. While the draft law, as it stands, requires the FBI to have “a legitimate national security purpose” before searching the database and to obtain a court order “based on probable cause” to look at the content of seized communications, it still gives the domestic law enforcement agencies the right to look at data seized on US citizens by the NSA. And agents only need supervisory authority to search for US citizens’ metadata.
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