New privacy bill aimed at reforming FISA and the Patriot Act introduced in the Senate

The legislation tackles several areas of reform, such as advancing the FISA sunset date

New legislation aims to reform the Patriot and FISA Amendments Acts to apply greater oversight and control to the government's surveillance programs.

The bill, the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013, comes following dramatic revelations about how the National Security Agency collects certain types of data about U.S. residents. One surveillance program of concern is Prism, an NSA data collection program that supposedly accesses the servers at Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and other tech companies to mine people's personal data like emails and photos. Another is a phone call metadata collection program.

"The recent public revelations about two classified data collection programs have brought renewed attention to the government's broad surveillance authorities, and they underscore the need for close scrutiny by Congress," Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said in a statement after introducing the bill.

The details about how the programs specifically work are fuzzy, but national intelligence director James Clapper has acknowledged that some form of both programs are conducted under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, for phone call metadata, and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA), for data content collection. Leahy's bill, which was introduced Monday along with support from a bipartisan group of senators, takes aim at these provisions to "strengthen privacy protections, accountability and oversight related to domestic surveillance."

The bill proposes multiple reforms. One measure, for instance, seeks to narrow the scope of Section 215 Patriot Act orders by requiring the government to show both relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power. Section 215 has been criticized by privacy advocates who claim that the government has used it to obtain private information about people who do not have a direct link to terrorists.

Letting people challenge nondisclosure or "gag orders" in court, and expanding public reporting on the use of national security letters, are also proposed in the legislation.

The bill also aims to advance the sunset date for the FISA Amendments Act from June 2017 to June 2015, "to ensure timely re-examination of how these authorities are being utilized," Leahy said. The 2015 FISA sunset will also align with the Patriot Act sunsets, "enabling Congress to address these FISA provisions all at once, rather than in a piecemeal fashion," he added.

Finally, the bill would also increase oversight by requiring the inspector general of the intelligence community to conduct a comprehensive review of the FISA Amendments Act and its impact on the privacy rights of Americans, Leahy argued.

"These are all commonsense, practical improvements that will ensure that the broad and powerful surveillance tools being used by the government are subject to appropriate limitations, transparency and oversight," he said.

Senator Leahy pushed for a shorter sunset and greater transparency of the FISA Amendments Act last year, which the Senate rejected.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGooglesecuritylegalinternetprivacyFacebook

More about AppleFacebookGoogleIDGMicrosoftNational Security AgencyNSAPrism

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Zach Miners

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place