Proposed Patriot Act Revisions Would End Most Mass Data Collections
NEWS ANALYSIS: The original authors of the Patriot Act are backing revisions that would end a number of problematic practices, but the revised USA Freedom Act must make it through both houses.The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make substantial modifications to the Patriot Act, including revisions to intelligence agencies' bulk collections of data that have angered many people at home and abroad. The bill, now called the USA Freedom Act, would allow challenges to national security letters and it makes significant changes to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, including declassification of its decisions on private data requests and collection. The legislation would also makes some changes to how the government tracks people as they move in and out of the United States. Basically, when a suspected terrorist enters the United States, intelligence agencies can continue tracking that person for up to 72 hours while the government seeks a warrant. The bill also allows companies under orders to collect personal data for the government to challenge gag orders, and it allows them to discuss national security letters (orders by the FBI to turn over information without a warrant) with certain third parties, primarily their legal counsel, if they want to challenge the orders. Companies will also be allowed a bit more leeway to disclose how they respond to national security letters.
The bill has very strong bipartisan backing in the House and it is expected to pass there around mid-May. The new bill is strongly backed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), author of the Patriot Act.