Tag Archives: United States

NSA: House bill would lower standards for collecting individuals’ data

Draft bill would allow collection of electronic communications records based only on ‘reasonable articulable suspicion’

US phone data NSA: House bill would lower standards for collecting individuals data
The House intelligence committee is circulating a draft bill that would permit the government to acquire the phone or email records of an “individual or facility” inside the US for up to a year.
Continue reading «NSA: House bill would lower standards for collecting individuals’ data»

The move by the House intelligence committee’s leadership – the Republican chairman Michael Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland – would significantly prohibit mass surveillance of all Americans’ phone data, a shift in position by two of the most stalwart congressional defenders of the practice. It comes as the New York Times reports that Barack Obama will propose ending bulk collection.

Obama’s self-imposed deadline on revamping the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk domestic phone data is set to expire on Friday.

The bill, titled the End Bulk Collection Act of 2014 and currently circulating on Capitol Hill, would prevent the government from acquiring “records of any electronic communication without the use of specific identifiers or selection terms,” some 10 months after the Guardian first exposed the bulk collection based on leaks by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

But the bill would allow the government to collect electronic communications records based on “reasonable articulable suspicion”, rather than probable cause or relevance to a terrorism investigation, from someone deemed to be an agent of a foreign power, associated with an agent of a foreign power, or “in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power.”

A draft of the bill acquired by the Guardian proposes the acquisition of such phone or email data for up to a year and would not necessarily require prior approval by a judge. Authorisation of the collection would come jointly from the US attorney general and director of national intelligence.

The NSA or the FBI would not be able to collect the content of those communications without probable cause.

Nor does the House intelligence committee’s draft bill require phone companies or any other private entity to store bulk phone records on behalf of the NSA – a proposal that has met with stiff opposition from the telecom companies. In essence, the draft bill gets rid of bulk collection, but makes it easier for government authorities to collect metadata on individuals inside the US suspected of involvement with a foreign power.

The House intelligence committee proposal represents competition to a different bill introduced last fall by privacy advocates in the Senate and House judiciary committees known as the USA Freedom Act.

That bill, which has 163 co-sponsors in both chambers, does not lower the legal standard for data collection on US persons, and would prohibit the NSA from searching for Americans’ identifying information in its foreign-oriented communications content databases, something the House intelligence bill would not.

A spokesperson for the House intelligence committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Rogers and Ruppersberger have scheduled a press conference on Tuesday morning to discuss what they described in a release as “Fisaimprovement legislation” – a reference to the seminal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which their bill would amend.

While a judge would not necessarily review the collection of a US individual’s phone or email records ahead of time, the House intelligence committee bill would require judicial review of the collection procedures and associated privacy protections to “reasonably limit the receipt, retention, use and disclosure of communications records associated with a specific person when such records are not necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess the importance of such information”.

A telecom or internet service provider could challenge the collection order before the secret Fisa court under the House intelligence committee proposal. The court would also have latitude to reject challenges “that are not warranted by existing law or consists of a frivolous argument for extending, modifying or reversing existing law or for establishing a new law”, and to impose contempt of court penalties for noncompliant companies.

The attorney general and the director of national intelligence would have to “assess compliance with the selection and the civil liberties and privacy protection procedures” associated with the collection every six months, and submit those assessments to the Fisa court and the intelligence and judiciary committees of the House and Senate.

Additionally, and in keeping with an October proposal from Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California, the House intelligence committee proposal would permit the NSA to continue surveillance for 72 hours on a suspected foreigner’s communications content if that person enters the US.

The House intelligence committee proposal contains provisions embraced by critics of widespread NSA surveillance. It would create a privacy advocate before the Fisa çourt; mandate additional declassification of Fisa court rulings; require the Senate to confirm the NSA director and inspector general.

It also requires annual disclosure of the number of times “in which the contents of a communication of a United States person was acquired under this Act when the acquisition authorized by this Act that resulted in the collection of such contents could not reasonably have been anticipated to capture such contents.”

But in a sign of the continuing contentiousness on Capitol Hill over changes to NSA surveillance, James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and co-author of the USA Freedom Act, preemptively rejected the House intelligence committee proposal, calling it “a convoluted bill that accepts the administration’s deliberate misinterpretations of the law.

“It limits, but does not end, bulk collection. Provisions included in the draft fall well short of the safeguards in the USA Freedom Act and do not strike the proper balance between privacy and security,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement late on Monday.

On Friday, the Obama administration and the intelligence agencies will face the expiration of a Fisa court order for bulk domestic phone records collection. That expiration represents a deadline imposed by Obama in January for his administration to come to reach consensus on the specific contours of post-NSA phone metadata collection.

According to a New York Times report late on Monday, Obama will propose ending bulk phone data collection and replacing it with individualised orders for telecom firms to provide phone records up to two “hops” – or degrees of separation – from a phone number suspected of wrongdoing. The effort goes further towards the position favoured by privacy advocates than Obama proposed in January. Obama will request the Fisa court bless the current bulk collection program for a final 90-day renewal as he attempts to implement the new plan, the Times reported.

The White House declined to comment on Monday about either the End Bulk Collection Act or the USA Freedom Act.

Source: TheGuardian

Tech giants to press Obama on NSA reform in private White House meeting

 Tech giants to press Obama on NSA reform in private White House meeting

Technology industry leaders were due to question Barack Obama about privacy issues and his progress towards ending the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk telephone data on Friday, in their second White House meeting over Silicon Valley’s surveillance concerns.
Continue reading «Tech giants to press Obama on NSA reform in private White House meeting»

Executives from Facebook, Google and Yahoo were invited by the administration to the private Oval Office discussion amid continued anger over revelations stemming from leaks last June by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Reform efforts in Washington have stalled somewhat since Obama called for the US government to stop collecting domestic phone data in January but suggested an unspecified third party might be able manage the database instead – leaving Congress and the intelligence community locked in a battle over how to proceed.

This has doubly complicated matters for the US technology industry, which fears public surveillance concerns are damaging its international business interests but which has little appetite for replacing the NSA’s role with a private sector database provider.

Friday’s meeting comes just days after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called Obama to express his displeasure with the latest round of NSA revelations. “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true, full reform,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on 13 March.

Zuckerberg, who was expected to attend the Oval Office event with Google chairman Eric Schmidt, said he had been “confused and frustrated” by reports of the behaviour of the US government. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” he wrote.

“The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.”

This week, Rajesh De, the NSA’s general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Executives from Netflix and Palantir, the big data mining company, are also expected to attend the White House meeting, where a major topic of conversation is expected to be the imminent overhaul of how the US collects the phone records of millions of US mobile users.

Obama’s speech in January worried many in the tech and telecoms community, who are concerned that the burden of collecting and keeping that data will merely be passed on to them.

Following Obama’s announcement, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others said the proposal represented “positive progress on key issues including transparency from the government and in what companies will be allowed to disclose, extending privacy protections to non-US citizens, and Fisa court reform.”

But they said crucial details remain to be addressed and additional steps were needed. Others were more critical. Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy at Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, said Obama’s proposals did not represent meaningful change.

“Overall, the strategy seems to be to leave current intelligence processes largely intact and improve oversight to a degree. We’d hoped for, and the internet deserves, more. Without a meaningful change of course, the internet will continue on its path toward a world of balkanization and distrust – a grave departure from its origins of openness and opportunity,” he wrote in a blog post.

Silicon Valley executives have made clear that they want greater transparency over the government’s collection of their users data and more oversight. But talks seem to have foundered in recent months with tech executives becoming increasingly concerned that little will change.

Source: TheGuardian