Senator Lisa Murkowski today joined a bipartisan effort to tighten the standards required for federal intelligence workers to be permitted to search through Americans' phone and/or Internet records -- a practice recently dubbed "metadata surveillance." Murkowski's decade-long concern over surveillance activities have been borne out by recent reports that the government has collected millions of Americans' call data -- who they are calling and for how long -- as well as the appearance of lax standards for investigations: last year alone, the N.S.A. filed 1,856 applications to probe individual's calls or e-mails -- and received 1,856 approvals.
Presently, an application for a court order under Section 215 of the Patriot Act is granted a presumption of relevance that items relate to a foreign power, an agent of a foreign power, or an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent -- instead of being forced to prove outright that the surveillance request is directly connected to a threat or a hostile foreign agent. The bipartisan legislation on track to be filed today would return the standard to the Senate's language from the 2005 Patriot Act Reauthorization, restoring the "reasonable grounds' justification that requires proof of suspicion over the present legal-ism: "presumptively relevant.'
"The balance between security and personal privacy must be a complicated, carefully-considered equation and not a rubber stamp," said Murkowski. "Much like tangible or legal evidence is required to get a search warrant, the government should be held to the same standard when digging through our communications and media. Alaskans are extremely uncomfortable with this extremely troubling and invasive form of government overreach -- which I've been working to rein in for years -- and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get our intelligence system back in balance."