The USA Liberty Act is Changing the Surveillance State. Here’s How.

By James Sweet | USA

On the sixth of October, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) proposed the USA Liberty Act. The bill’s purpose is to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Section 702 allows the NSA and other intelligence agencies to collect electronic communications of non-U.S. citizens. However, amendments would be put into place to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. These amendments would do the following: give protection to American citizens whose data is accidentally collected, provide government oversight and transparency, reform Section 702 data collection, and much more.

Section 702 would be authorized until September 30th, 2023, unless reauthorized again. The Act will increase penalties for “unauthorized removal and retention of classified information”. Instead of the current maximum of one year in prison, the maximum would be increased to five years. However, whistleblower protections are also enhanced, giving protection to private contractors that work for intelligence agencies. Men and women like Edward Snowden would finally be protected under federal law.

The USA Liberty Act would also put more restrictions on the federal government, like reasons to grab the content of specific communications. If the FBI or another organization is investigating a crime and wishes to use data grabbed, they must obtain a court order. The court order would not be needed, however, if lives are at stake, or if previous court orders or warrants are issued.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence must report to Congress twice each year on the number of U.S. persons whose communications are incidentally collected; the number of unmasking requests that involve U.S. persons; and the number of requests by the intelligence community that resulted in dissemination of unmasked U.S. person identities.

These are the main highlights of the Act, which lawmakers hope can finally reform the process of collecting electronic communications. Some argue that this bill should be shot down, as it still tramples upon the privacy of those outside of the U.S., and that lawmakers are being inconsiderate of those that aren’t American citizens. Others argue that this bill is beneficial as it restricts the government’s ability to trample upon U.S. citizens and their privacy and that the constitution and government are made to protect only American citizens. At the end of the day, this Act is going to cause quite a debate.

To read the House Judiciary Committee report on the Act, click here.

To read the actual Act, click here.

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