On Thursday, May 28, 2015, ARL joined a coalition of 51 companies, trade associations and civil society organizations to oppose the FISA Improvements Act of 2015, introduced by Senator Burr (R-NC), and the FISA Reform Act of 2015, introduced by Senator Feinstein (D-CA). While these bills have been called a “backup plan” if the USA FREEDOM Act is not passed, it is clear that the two bills do not adequately address current surveillance practices and fail to protect privacy and civil liberties.
The letter points out that both bills fail to stop domestic bulk collection and would authorize a government-imposed data retention mandate on private businesses. It also notes
. . . the FISA Improvements Act would permit domestic bulk collection b leaving unchanged the FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace law, which was used for years to collect Internet metadata in bulk. The bill explicitly leaves Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act unchanged for two years, despite recent public assurances by the NSA Director that a transition period longer than 180 days is not necessary. In addition to this, the bill contains provisions that weaken whistleblower protections, expand surveillance power by granting the FBI The authority to obtain electronic communication transaction records without a court order, and make permanent provisions of the Patriot Act that are currently tied to a sunset date.
The letter concludes:
Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is set to expire at 12:00am on June 1. No legislation has passed the Senate, despite a clear demand for surveillance reform. These proposals are unviable, ineffective and do not offer a path forward. We strongly urge against consideration of the FISA Improvements Act or the FISA Restoration and Reform Act.