Senator John Thune Blocks Vote on USA Freedom Act

When enacted, Section 215 of the Patriot Act allowed the government to collect tangible things such as documents, records, and papers to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a US citizen or to protect against international terrorism.

In 2006, Section 215 was set to expire. Congress renewed the provision, but not without changes. To prevent mass data collection on Americans, the provision was amended such that the Government’s order include “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.” read more

Rep. Noem Earns ‘A’ for Stance Against Mass Spying

A coalition of 25 various organizations led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently graded elected officials in Washington, D.C. on the extent to which they are pushing for real surveillance reform.  From the coalition’s website:

We are calling on the United States government to:

  • Pass strong legislative reform to outlaw mass surveillance, including phone record surveillance and Internet surveillance. This must include a recognition of the privacy rights of non-US citizens.
  • Reform the FISA court, the secret court that signs off on the NSA’s secret surveillance. FISA court reform includes transparency into any significant or new legal interpretations made by court and ensuring a well-resourced public advocate is in place to argue for privacy rights within the court and seek further review.
  • Prohibit the NSA from undermining international encryption technologies and standards and hacking into technology companies.
  • Promote transparency, publish transparency reports, and also give companies rights to publish granular accounts about how companies cooperate with bulk surveillance efforts and the number of user accounts that are affected.

Congress hasn’t acted on all of these issues recently, so I’d think of it as more of a mid-term report card.  The methodology for the report card can be seen at the coalition’s web site.  The Senate hasn’t voted on any related measures, so neither Sen. Thune and Sen. Johnson were graded. read more

Rep. Noem votes to stop backdoor searches of Americans’ communications

Rep. Noem voted “YES” to the Sensenbrenner-Massie-Lofgren Amendment to Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015.  The measure passed with bi-partisan support (293-123).  The amendment prohibits the use of funding for backdoor searches of Americans’ communications without a warrant. It also prohibits the use of funding for the NSA to mandate or request that private companies and organizations add backdoors to the encryption standards that are meant to keep you safe on the web.   Here is the actual text of the amendment: read more

Rep. Noem votes “NO” on first NSA reform

The Amash-Conyers amendment to the 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill is the first legislative attempt to reign in the NSA’s bulk surveillance of Americans since the surveillance was first revealed in June.  According to Wikipedia, the amendment:

  • “sought to bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records”, thereby ending the mass surveillance of Americans. Instead, it permitted “the FISA court under Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation”.
  • would have permitted the continued use of business records and other “tangible things” if the data were “actually related to an authorized counter-terrorism investigation”.
  • would have required judicial oversight with “a substantive, statutory standard to apply to make sure the NSA does not violate Americans’ civil liberties”.

The amendment lost by a vote of 217 to 205 with each party split on the issue.  I wrote to Rep. Noem regarding her vote, and in her response she stated that “while I believe the Amash amendment went too far, I am in full support of further safeguarding our right to privacy and clearly drawing the line for federal agencies at the doorstep of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.” read more

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