With growing animosity toward the government’s massive spying programs, it’s likely that some reform is going to pass. Yesterday, a bi-partisan group of senior members of Congress unveiled a package that combines the most promising proposals to the National Security Agency’s phone and Internet dragnet.
Here are the essentials of Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul’s reform proposal:
—End bulk collection–all of it. Specifically, it would forbid the NSA from indiscriminately sweeping up phone and Internet data under section 215 of the Patriot Act. Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has long argued that the dragnet does not actually prevent any attacks. Instead, the NSA would need a warrant to target suspects.
—Create a public advocate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the secret military court that approves NSA spying requests. Currently, the FISC has only rejected 0.03 percent of all requests, so it seems like privacy should have representation in the courtroom.
—Make Suing the NSA Possible. Last February, the Supreme Court declared that the ACLU couldn’t sue the NSA since they couldn’t prove damages. Unfortunately, since the NSA is so secretive, it’s kinda hard to prove who gets harmed. The new law would allow Senator Rand Paul to live out his libertarian dream of suing the federal government. Details are still scant; I’ve reached out to Wyden’s office for specifics on this provision.
This package has a decent shot at passing. While a bill to completely cut funding for the NSA’s dragnet program narrowly failed last July, a key Republican, Darrell Issa, came out in favor cutting off the NSA this month. So, there’s momentum to stop bulk collection of data, along with the other provisions.
Of course, none of this will likely be brought to a vote until President Obama’s NSA task force makes its recommendations later this fall. And, given that the government could shut down next Tuesday, and no one has yet made any headway on how to deal with military intervention in Syria, it’ll be a while before the most unproductive Congress in history can take up the issue.
Still, progress…maybe. Watch the press conference below: