Democratic United States Representative John Conyers and his Republican colleague Justin Amash don’t agree on a lot of things. But they are, like most of us, united in being aghast at all the government snooping being done to us, for us, against us, and on everyone else in the world. Unlike most of us, they’re in a position to do something about it — or at the very least shame those Beltway officials who would perpetuate this snooping.
To that end, they’ve introduced H.R. 2399, the “Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act,” or the LIBERT-E Act for short.
The first reform, in Section 2 of the LIBERT-E Act, modifies access to certain records for foreign intelligence and terrorism investigations. Specifically, Section 2 would amend Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to prevent the mass collection of records that are not explicitly relevant to an authorized foreign intelligence investigation, terrorism investigation, or covert intelligence activities.
Presently, to obtain a court order under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the government only needs to show that the records are “relevant” to an investigation. News reports suggest, however, that the government’s view of what is “relevant” includes the records of every telephone call. Section 2 of the LIBERT-E Act would raise the relevancy standard for the government to one requiring “specific and articulable” facts on a given investigation. In addition, Section 2 mandates that for any records to be collected they must be material to the investigation and pertain only to the individual under investigation.
Simply put, the government should be required to show that the records it seeks are in fact material to a particular concern.
The second set of reforms that the LIBERT-E Act puts into place deals with transparency. For too long, a secretive FISA court has essentially rubber-stamped all of the NSA’s surveillance requests. Section 3 of the LIBERT-E Act requires the Attorney General to make available to the public unclassified summaries of significant decisions by the FISA court, within 180 days of Congress receiving them. At the Congressional level, Section 3 also mandates that the Attorney General makes all information provided to the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees available to every Member of Congress. Both of these measures will take the entirety of the decision-making process out of the backroom and provide needed public, as well as Congressional, oversight.
Sounds good to me. Of course, that’s probably why you’re only hearing about this now, from this blog post — because it’s such a good idea that no TV news program would touch it.
Let’s see if we can spread the word and do an end run around the censorship.