Seeking to restore the balance between national security and privacy rights, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) has leant his support to legislation that would end the government's dragnet collection of phone records and increase oversight and accountability in domestic surveillance programs.
The USA FREEDOM Act has gained widespread, bipartisan support that includes endorsements from technology companies, industry groups, and independent privacy advocates. Kingston says its needed to rein in overreach at the National Security Agency.
"We cannot be Pollyannas when it comes to national security but there must be limits to the government's power," said Kingston. "It is unacceptable for Uncle Sam to collect and store data on the off chance it could one day be used against you. This bill strikes the right balance between national security and privacy rights."
In addition to ending blanket collection of American citizens' phone records, the legislation would require the government actively filter and discard inadvertently collected through anti-terrorism surveillance programs.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which reviews surveillance warrants from intelligence agencies would see significant reforms under the proposal. A Special Advocate would be created to privacy interests before the court and empowered with the ability to appeal rulings. The bill would also require more robust reporting requirements for the court and expand the investigative ability of an independent agency charged with protecting privacy and civil liberties.
To increase transparency, the Attorney General would be required to disclose all FISA Court rulings since July 10, 2003 that significantly shape application of the law. The government would also provide annual reports of the number of individuals and U.S. persons subject to electronic surveillance.
The ability of private companies like Internet telecommunications firms to report aspects of their interaction with intelligence agencies would also be expanded under the proposal.
"Adding a pragmatic conservative like Jack Kingston as the 100th cosponsor in the House is an encouraging step towards protecting Americans' constitutional rights and restoring trust in the intelligence community," said Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) who sponsored the bill in the House.
A bipartisan group led by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
"The groundswell of support for this legislation is a testament to its growing momentum," Kingston said. "We are united in this effort and look forward to seeing this bill signed into law."