Leaders of House Intelligence Committee debut legislation to rein in NSA’s bulk metadata collection program
Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) introduced on March 25 the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act of 2014, bipartisan legislation that would end bulk collection of metadata under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including telephone, email, and internet metadata.
The bill also codifies a ban on the bulk collection of bulk firearm sales records, library records, medical records, tax returns, educational records, and other sensitive personal records.
For the past several months, the Committee has been evaluating a number of ways to increase transparency and restore trust in critical national security programs. This proposal allows the government to obtain only the metadata it uses to safeguard the U.S. against terrorists and other foreign bad actors in a targeted, individualized way with robust judicial review, says a Committee press release.
- If the government has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that an individual phone number is associated with terrorism, the government could, under a program with significant court and congressional oversight, direct communication companies to query their records and provide the government with numbers connected with that suspect number. This capability could be used to detect early indicators of domestic terrorism.
- The FISA Transparency and Modernization Act of 2014 requires judicial review every step of the way. The government would be required to seek court approval before and after obtaining metadata from communication companies.
- Before the government could direct a company to provide targeted metadata, the government must create, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) must approve, selection procedures to ensure it only obtains metadata associated with legitimate terrorist and foreign intelligence targets.
- After the government directs a company to provide targeted metadata, the government must submit the evidence supporting its request to the FISC for judicial review. If the court disapproves, it can order the government to purge any metadata it received.
Additionally, this legislation prohibits the government from using this new targeted metadata procedure to obtain any communications content or any personally identifiable information, and it does not require that companies keep any records for any period longer than they normally would. Just as under the current program, the Government would not be able to use this new authority to listen to phone calls or read the content of emails.
Chairman Rogers said: “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the House and Senate to enact a bipartisan proposal that will ensure the highest levels of privacy and civil liberties while still maintaining the tools our government needs to keep us, and our allies, safe.”
Ranking Member Ruppersberger added: “Our bipartisan approach delivered a true victory for our country, as our proposal enhances transparency and privacy protections while maintaining the capability our Intelligence Community needs to protect our country.”