Regulation

Lawmakers Call For Stricter Guidelines On NSA Data Collection

Two lawmakers want to pass an amendment that aims to stop a massive data collection program run by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The bipartisan amendment wants to defund the program unless the government vows that it won’t intentionally collect data of Americans, including emails, messages and browsing data, without a warrant.

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to submit a certification under section 702(h) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or for an acquisition pursuant to such a certification, if such certification does not include the following sentence: ‘This certification does not authorize any acquisition that intentionally targets a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if a significant purpose of such targeting is to acquire the communications of a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States, any acquisition of a communication as to which no participant is a person who is targeted pursuant to the authorized acquisition, or any acquisition of a communication known to be entirely domestic,’” the entire amendment reads.

The amendment’s authors, Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI, 3rd) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th), have the support of groups such as the ACLU, the EFF, FreedomWorks, New America and the Sunlight Foundation.

The NSA can currently use its Section 702 powers to collect and store the communications of foreign targets outside the U.S. But according to a blog post by the EFF, “the program actually does sweep up billions of communications involving people not explicitly targeted, including Americans. For example, a 2014 report by The Washington Post that reviewed a ‘large cache of intercepted conversations’ provided by Edward Snowden revealed that 9 out of 10 account holders ‘were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.’”

Last year, Section 702 was reauthorized with almost no changes, even after there were numerous complaints and concerns following Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance.

“The NSA has used Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to justify collecting and storing millions of Americans’ online communications,” according to the EFF. “The House of Representatives must vote yes in order to make this important corrective.”

While the government has refused to give specifics on how many Americans have had their data collected by the NSA, last year the government revealed that it made more than 9,600 warrantless searches of Americans’ communications, an increase of 28 percent year-over-year.

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