The FISA Amendments Act shouldn’t be reauthorized until the government discloses how its use has impacted the privacy of people in the U.S. and the Congress imposes transparency requirements to prevent abuse, sixteen groups said in a letter to Congress today. The FAA authorizes the government to conduct surveillance in the U.S. without judicial authorization provided the surveillance targets people believed to be abroad. Since the surveillance authorized could sweep in any international communications of people in the U.S., the FAA could have a significant impact on privacy of people in the U.S., but the extent of that impact has been shrouded in secrecy. The groups called for that shroud to be lifted at least to some extent.
On the same day the groups sent their letter, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that he had put a hold on S. 3276, a bill that would extend the FISA Amendments Act for five years. Wyden said that he put the hold on the bill in part because Congress has not yet determined whether the communications of law abiding Americans are being swept up in the exercise of statutory authorities that were designed to apply to non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are outside the U.S. Wyden dropped a similar hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2012 when a three-year extension of the FAA was removed from the bill.