Two Ways the Surveillance Transparency Rules for Companies Are Not Transparent

In response to the public uproar over mass surveillance, and a lawsuit brought by Internet companies, the U.S. government recently established rules to allow companies to report some details on surveillance demands in intelligence investigations. However, the government carefully worded its new rules in a way that still obscures the true scope of surveillance on companies’ users.

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Four Key Reforms for NSA Surveillance

Some degree of government surveillance and secrecy is necessary to protect against national security threats. However, overbroad government power to conduct mass surveillance with minimal transparency threatens Constitutional freedoms and inhibits meaningful public debate. Here are four – but not the only – needed national security surveillance reforms that the Administration and Congress should tackle now.

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Issue brief: Bulk collection of records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act

According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden in the summer of 2013, the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of hundreds of millions Americans. Telephone service providers are compelled to turn over the “phone metadata” – records on who calls who, when, and for how long – to the NSA on a daily basis. The government claims that Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act provides them with the authority to collect this information in bulk, even if the information is not linked to any crime or investigation. This has sparked an intense debate over whether Section 215 should be reformed to prohibit this bulk collection authority. Here is a primer on the law, starting with the key reforms we want to see happen.

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One Small Step for Transparency

Today the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would allow companies to publicly report more details about the government’s demands for user data under national security authorities. Though this is a positive development, the DOJ’s new rules still do not permit the granular reporting needed for meaningful public debate, and fall short of proposals circulating in Congress and government oversight entities – such as PCLOB and the President’s Review Group – to authorize more detailed reporting.

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Drone Countdown

Now that Congress’ demand to put drones in the air over America is law, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must write the rules governing the operation of civilian and government drones. The new drone law contains a tangle of dates and…

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