Today, a coalition of more than 30 technology companies and trade associations urged Congress to reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (50 U.S.C. § 1881a).
In a letter to Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of House Judiciary Committee, the companies outlined five key reforms:
- Codify the NSA’s recent decision to end “about” collection, which swept up communications of Americans merely speaking “about” surveillance targets, (emailing an article about a foreign president, for example);
- Require judicial oversight when government agencies “query” the 702 database to search U.S. persons’ communications gathered under Section 702;
- Narrow the overly broad definition of “foreign intelligence information;”
- Allow companies to disclose information about the number of intelligence requests they receive; and
- Create transparency around the incidental collection and law enforcement use of U.S. persons’ communications.
“Americans trust technology companies with some of the most sensitive information about their lives, and they shouldn’t have to fear their government is breaking that trust,” said Austin Carson, Executive Director of TechFreedom. “These proposed reforms represent a good-faith compromise to one of the most significant issues Congress must resolve this year. They would maintain important national security tools while minimizing the impact on Americans. Greater transparency about the extent of surveillance of U.S. persons would help keep these programs accountable in the future, letting Congress and the public have their say.
“With concerns over surveillance reaching the Oval Office and a deadline to reauthorize the program, there has never been a better time to enact serious reforms,” concluded Carson. “Doing so will put our security operations on a more sustainable path and ensure concerns around surveillance don’t prevent new innovations or startups on our shores — or drive existing companies offshore, hurting both the U.S. economy and national security. We applaud the letter signatories for stepping up to the plate and look forward to working with the relevant committees to strike the right balance.”
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