Jefferson Morley | January 23, 2020
Congress to Weigh Surveillance Reforms in Wake of Watchdog Report on FBI
The report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has had a big impact on Congress. For the first time in twenty years, lawmakers are considering fundamental reforms to laws authorizing the surveillance of millions of Americans.
Once sacrosanct on Capitol Hill, the 2002 Patriot Act and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) are both under serious review
From the Wall Street Journal
One of the statues, due to lapse in March, authorizes the program at the center of Edward Snowden’s 2013 disclosures about the collection of U.S. call metadata by the National Security Agency, even though the program has been shut down for more than a year because of compliance issues.
That tool, and others due to lapse, are based in part on the FISA law, which for decades has provided the legal underpinning for a largely secret process for obtaining permission to surveil.
Horowitz’s report showed that while the FBI had grounds to open an investigation of contacts between President Trump’s entourage and Russian state actors, it also identified multiple mistakes and abuses in the applications for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page, a Trump adviser.
Now two legislators are seeking broad reforms to protect privacy and the civil liberties of people targeted for surveillance.
Buoyed in part by the FBI watchdog report, privacy advocates have set their sights higher. Sens. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) plan to introduce bipartisan legislation this week that would end the maligned NSA metadata tool, while also introducing broader reforms to the FISA process, including the FISA court, which approves surveillance activities and operates in secret.