Measure Introduced In The House To Restrict Internet Surveillance Of Americans

by King & Spalding
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On October 6 a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House Judiciary Committee unveiled the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989), which seeks to reform and reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Section 702, set to expire on December 31, 2017, authorizes the surveillance of communications of non-US persons outside the United States in an effort to protect national security. Incidentally, the program also collects the communications of US persons if they communicate with a targeted non-US person, which can then be subject to a warrantless search by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The legislation proposes to reauthorize Section 702 through September 30, 2023, and seeks to enhance penalties for unauthorized removal and retention of classified information. According to a Committee release accompanying introduction of the bill, “The USA Liberty Act preserves the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of electronic communications by non-US persons for use in our nation’s defense. The bill also creates a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 accords with principles of privacy and due process.”

Highlights of the bill include:

  • With few exceptions, law enforcement agencies must obtain a court order based on probable cause to review content of any collected communications;
  • National security agencies must have a legitimate national security purpose to query the Section 702 database for any US person;
  • Enhanced oversight by Congress and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board; and
  • A variety of heightened civil liberty protections.

The bill was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Committee members Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI),  Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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