On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, ARL joined a coalition of 47 advocacy groups, technology companies and trade associations in sending a letter to President Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Security Admiral Michael Rogers, and Congressional leadership advocating for significant surveillance reform. Key portions of the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215 (known as the “business records” or “library records” provisions), which has been used as the basis for bulk collection of records, are set to sunset on June 1, 2015.
While these groups hold differing opinions on the best and most appropriate reforms, all came together in agreement that reform must include: 1) Ending bulk collection under Section 215 provision, as well as under Section 214, the provision governing pen registers and trap and trace deices; and 2) Transparency and accountability measures for government and company reporting as well as declassifications of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court decisions.
These elements are minimum components to a surveillance reform package. The letter concludes, “It has been nearly two years since the first news stories revealed the scope of the United States’ surveillance and bulk collection activities. Now is the time to take on meaningful legislative privacy, transparency, and accountability.”
Given the quickly approaching June 1 deadline, Congress must move swiftly to pass surveillance reform. Last November, the U.S. Senate failed to advance the USA FREEDOM Act, falling two votes shy of the necessary 60 votes for cloture, which would have provided meaningful reform to current NSA practices. The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT) would have ended the current practice of bulk collection of phone records, would have made meaningful reforms to the FISA Court, and included enhanced transparency. ARL urges Congress to act now and pass meaningful reforms, such as those proposed by Senator Leahy’s bill.