President and House Intelligence Committee Propose End to Bulk Collection

Two major proposals addressing bulk collection of records in the U.S. are set to be unveiled this week. First, Reps.Ruppersberger and Rogers of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) are scheduled to introduce their“FISA Transparency and Modernization Act of 2014” this morning. Second, the New York Times reports that the Obama Administration is preparing to announce an overhaul to theNSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. The Center for Democracy & Technology released the following in response to the proposals:

“If the reports are accurate, both the House Intelligence Committee and Obama proposals would end bulk collection of phone records. This shows near consensus across party lines and in the White House that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records must end. Both proposals represent significant progress in bringing meaningful reform to US government surveillance practices,” said Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“While each proposal represents a step forward, each also has a fatal flaw. TheRuppersberger bill would end bulk collection for most types of data, but the bill would allow intelligence agencies to obtain individuals’ data without prior court approval. The President’s proposal, as described, would require intelligence agencies to get court approval before obtaining phone records, but the proposal is only limited to phone records. Combined, these two proposals would get us close to where we need to be, but separately they fall short of what is needed,” Geiger added.

“If the President’s proposal only addresses the phone collection program, it would continue to allow bulk collection of other information, like Internet metadata, location information, and financial records. The President and Congress must end bulk collection authority entirely, for all types of records, and replace it with surveillance directed at specific targets,” said Geiger.

[Watch Geiger explain why bulk collection is about more than phone records.]

In regards to the lack of prior court approval for individual surveillance demands under theHPSCI proposal, Geiger said: “If the intelligence agencies believe the FISA Court would move too slowly to authorize domestic surveillance beforehand, then the solution is to provide the FISA Court with more resources. The solution should not be to provide intelligence agencies with virtual subpoena authority over company records.”