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Ear to the Ground

Senator Moves to Rein In Warrantless Spying

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Posted on Aug 4, 2012
kainet (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A bill put forward by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., proposes to slap some limits on the U.S. government’s collecting of information on Americans under its warrantless electronic spying program and forfeit access to information gathered if the courts that oversee such surveillance reject a spying request.

“Keeping Americans safe versus protecting Americans’ privacy is a false choice,” Merkley said. “We have a moral and constitutional duty to do both.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Wired’s Threat Level:

Among other things, Merkley’s proposal seeks to amend a section that generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests that ensnare Americans’ communications. The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.

Under Merkley’s “Protect America’s Privacy Act,” if the secret FISA court rejects a spying request, the government “must immediately stop the information acquisition and that any information collected from Americans may not be used in legal proceeding.” What’s more, if data is collected on Americans, it cannot be accessed without a standard, probable-cause warrant.

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