A bill sponsored by Jim Sensenbrenner. To reform the authorities of the Federal Government to require the production of certain business records, conduct electronic surveillance, use pen registers and trap and trace devices, and use other forms of information gathering for foreign intelligence, counterterrorism, and criminal purposes, and for other purposes.

Summary: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act or the USA FREEDOM Act - Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to set forth additional requirements for obtaining orders for business records in counterterrorism investigations, including requiring that the records sought pertain to a foreign power, an agent of a foreign power, or an individual in contact with, or known to a suspected agent of, a foreign power. Requires additional information if the applicant is seeking a nondisclosure requirement in connection with such request. Allows the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apply for renewals of nondisclosure requirements. Authorizes the Attorney General (AG) to require the production of call data records by the provider of a wire or electronic communication service.

Amends the USA PATRIOT Improvements and Reauthorization Act of 2005 to require the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Justice (DOJ), for 2010 through 2013, to report on an examination of the minimization procedures (procedures designed to minimize the acquisition and retention of information and to prohibit its unauthorized dissemination) used in relation to business records orders.

Imposes additional requirements on the authorized use of pen registers and trap and trace devices (devices for recording incoming and outgoing telephone numbers), including that:

  • the information sought must pertain to a foreign power, agent thereof, or individual in contact with or known to such an agent
  • the application must contain a statement of proposed minimization procedures. Requires audits of the effectiveness and use of such devices
Prohibits the searching of collections of communications of U.S. persons, except:
  • under an order or authorization for electronic surveillance or physical search
  • with the consent of such person
  • under a reasonable belief that the life or safety of the person in threatened and the information is sought to assist that person
Limits the collection of wholly domestic communications of a U.S. person to those communications:
  • to which any party is a target of the acquisition
  • that contain an identifier of a target of an acquisition, only if the communications are acquired to protect against international terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
Prohibits receiving into evidence any information obtained in an acquisition against any U.S. person for which a deficiency in the procedures for acquiring such information is identified by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). Authorizes the FISA Court, if the government corrects any deficiencies so identified, to permit the use or disclosure of information acquired before the correction under such minimization procedures as the FISA Court shall establish.

Repeals on June 1, 2015, FISA procedures regarding the targeting of non-U.S. persons located outside the United States in order to acquire foreign intelligence information. Requires reviews of surveillance targeting and minimization procedures by the IG of the Intelligence Community (IC), including mandatory review with respect to the privacy rights of U.S. persons.

Establishes within the judicial branch an Office of the Special Advocate to participate in proceedings before the FISA Court and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, request reconsiderations of FISA Court decisions, and participate in appeals and reviews. Requires the Special Advocate to vigorously advocate in support of legal interpretations that protect individual privacy and civil liberties. Requires the Attorney General to publicly disclose specified information in connection with FISA Court or FISA Court of Review decisions appealed by the Special Advocate. Requires the release of as much information regarding the facts and analysis in such decisions as is consistent with legitimate national security concerns.

Authorizes the FBI Director to request from a communication service provider the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance billing records of a person as part of a national security investigation only if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought pertains to a foreign power, an agent of a foreign power, or an individual in contact with, or known to a suspected agent of, a foreign power. Provides similar requirements with respect to an FBI request for information from financial institutions and consumer reporting agencies. Revises provisions prohibiting the disclosure of the receipt of a national security letter by such providers, institutions, and agencies to except disclosure to:

  • those persons to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with the request
  • an attorney in order to obtain legal advice or assistance regarding the request
  • other persons as permitted by the FBI
Includes under such prohibition (with the same exceptions) national security letters issued in connection with the investigation of persons with access to classified information. Allows affected communications providers, financial institutions, and consumer reporting agencies to seek judicial review of requests for information. Requires the DOJ IG to report results of audits of national security letters issued during 2010 through 2013.

Amends provisions of FISA, the Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978, the National Security Act of 1947, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) concerning national security letters to, effective June 1, 2015, make such provisions read as they read on October 25, 2001.

Allows electronic service providers to publicly report on information provided under FISA orders and national security letters. Exempts such providers from liability with respect to such reports. Revises requirements concerning government reporting on the use of FISA orders and national security letters.

Amends the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to remove the AG as a required intermediary for subpoenas in connection with authorized activities of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. More: beta.congress.gov.

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100
4 votes
Jul 19, 2015

From Wikipedia:

The bill's stated purpose is: "To rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC."

I think this is a that has the potential for bi-partisan support and I think it generally reflects popular sentiment against the extent of the NSA's operations and the desire on the part of the public to know what is going on in the FISC and how these decisions are being made.

Personally, I support the existence of the NSA and I support government spying programs but with reservations; there need to be clear and public checks and balances. The past two administrations have taken a sort-of "trust us" approach where the public is expected to trust that the "FISC" - a mysterious and extra-judicial organization if there ever was one - would make the right call. This obviously doesn't cut it.

I would like to see more information about this bill before making any definitive judgment, however. For now, my vote is "yes."

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100
main reply
2 votes,
Jul 19, 2015

I agree that, for now, this is supportable but it is not a real solution to the problem. We need to have transparency: Anything less and the tool gets used against the general public; we've seen this happen time and time again in the U.S.

We can't trust elected representatives standing in place of transparency, they serve themselves and their money masters first and the general public be damned. Adding more "oversight" via elected persons or governmental bodies doesn't fix the problem when the overseers themselves are untrustworthy.

If transparency cannot reasonably be achieved, then disassemble the tools and prohibit them. Having tools like these under control of a corrupt governing system is worse than the alternative of no tool at all.

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100
main reply
2 votes,
Jul 19, 2015

From congress.gov: "Prohibits the searching of collections of communications of U.S. persons, except: (1) under an order or authorization for electronic surveillance or physical search, (2) with the consent of such person, or (3) under a reasonable belief that the life or safety of the person in threatened and the information is sought to assist that person."

This is the same kind of loophole that allows officers to stop and search any vehicle they want to. Reasonable belief leaves a fuzzy line that is easy to cross and argue later without any real consequences. They don't need authorization to look through your data if they have reasonable belief that it might affect the safety of someone somewhere.

It is definitely an improvement, with the attempt 'to rein in the dragnet collection of data by the NSA', but I don't think this will fix all of the problems.

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100
2 votes
Jul 19, 2015

This bill still doesn't require any government agency to get a court warrant, so they will use the loopholes to do the same old stuff. Is it better than nothing? Not necessarily, it may slow down or even block the action of introducing the proper bill. It's a good publicity for Mr. Sensenbrenner and his colleagues, but that's it.

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0
0 votes
Jul 19, 2015

You realize, of course, after reading the summary of this bill that it changes absolutely nothing but a bit of the wording, concerning the right to privacy of the American people, don't you?

This, like the "patriot act" (which is the most heinous, knee jerk, un-patriotic, anti-constitutional thing ever penned on American soil) is a load of hooey.

It changes nothing about what the three-letter agencies can do, and actually re-iterates almost word for word the patriot act in it's broad interpretation of how the government can ignore Constitutional rights in its unending search for "the bad guys".

No. No. No. No more fascist laws passed under the guise of "patriotism" and "freedom".

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