US senators have proposed a bill that would drastically reform the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency (NSA) and increase oversight of government surveillance.
Titled The Safeguarding Americans’ Private Records Act, the bill was introduced on Thursday by Senators Ron Wyden, Zoe Lofgren, Pramila Jayapal, Warren Davidson, and Steve Daines.
According to a statement on Wyden’s website, the changes proposed in the bill will “protect Americans’ rights against unnecessary government surveillance.”
The bill comes ahead of the March 15 expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the National Security Agency “used to create a secret mass surveillance program that swept up millions of Americans’ phone calls.” The phone record program was terminated last year.
The bill prohibits the “warrantless collection of cell site location and GPS information as well as browsing history and internet search history and ensures that the government cannot conduct collection for intelligence purposes that would violate the Fourth Amendment in the criminal context.”
Furthermore, the bill aims to establish the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process as the only process by which the government is allowed to carry out surveillance. By doing this, the bill intends to close what it describes as “secret law” loopholes that have allowed the US government to clandestinely conduct surveillance outside the FISA process in the past.
Other reforms proposed by the bill are the increase of congressional oversight of government surveillance activities with the addition of new public reporting requirements regarding Americans whose information has been collected under Sections 215 and 702 of the Patriot Act.
Commenting on the new bill, Jack Mannino, CEO at Virginia-based application security provider nVisium, said: “These are important steps towards protecting the civil liberties and Fourth Amendment rights of citizens. Intelligence agencies do important work, and it’s necessary for them to be able to do their jobs, while preserving legal and moral boundaries. States, such as California, have passed legislation to protect internet privacy, and other states are quickly moving in the same direction. Overreaching surveillance erodes trust in the systems we use and our expectation of privacy.”