Amash, Conyers: Time to fix the NSA

posted at 5:21 pm on June 13, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Hot Air welcomes Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI) for a bipartisan response to the recent revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) and its surveillance programs. 

A bipartisan response to the NSA’s surveillance

By Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. John Conyers

Somewhere in a government data center sits information on every call you’ve made lately. You may be completely innocent. And yet, day-in and day-out, the government continues to collect information on your calls.

Vacuuming up details from the lives of ordinary Americans is not what Congress signed on to when it enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the 1970s, or when it amended the law through the USA PATRIOT Act a decade ago. Many rank-and-file congressmen were shocked to learn that the law has been stretched to authorize such blanket surveillance.

Americans deserve to be safe and free. Their elected representatives—regardless of political party or ideology—should work together to protect their privacy. That’s why tomorrow we will introduce a bipartisan, comprehensive response to NSA’s overbroad surveillance activities, called the LIBERT-E Act.

The Patriot Act’s Section 215, which was the basis of the leaked FISA court order authorizing bulk collection of telephone records, ostensibly limits the scope of the government’s data collection. Section 215 currently requires the government to provide facts to show that the information sought relates to a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation.

It’s believable that some of Verizon’s millions of customers come within the web of such an investigation. It’s not possible, however, that the records of every Verizon customer—and, reportedly, every customer of every major phone company in the country—are “relevant” to an ongoing foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation.

The government has no business stockpiling so much of our data, and our bill seeks to solve two of the problems that became so apparent after last week’s leak of the FISA court order and disclosure of the “PRISM” program.

First, rather than keeping a “relevance” standard that provides no meaningful limit on the mass collection of data, we propose that the government present at least “specific and articulable” facts that show that the desired information is “relevant and material” to an authorized investigation, and that the data pertain only to individuals under investigation. Federal courts created the “specific and articulable” standard decades ago to review certain police searches. It’s the same standard federal investigators must meet to access other electronic communications. By creating a tighter link between the data and the person under investigation, we can help prevent the indiscriminate surveillance of innocent Americans.

Second, we require the federal government to release significant opinions of the FISA court, which to date has operated in complete secrecy from the American public. Congress and the American people must know how the law is being interpreted to have an informed debate about surveillance and personal liberty.

Americans and their representatives must debate the weighty issues surrounding liberty and security. These issues are just too important to be handled behind closed doors. That is why our legislation also gives every Member of Congress the same access to FISA court opinions that some congressional committees have. And we require that summaries of the opinions be available to the public (with classified portions withheld, as needed). To jumpstart this critical policy debate, we task relevant inspectors general with assessing the privacy impact that NSA’s surveillance has had on Americans, and we demand disclosure of information on the agency’s domestic surveillance.

With the public now more aware of its government’s surveillance, we hope to renew Congress’s focus on protecting civil liberties. The NSA’s programs are reported to collect information on practically all Americans. Taking this opportunity to fix the system should be a project we all can support.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is the Chairman of the House Liberty Caucus. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee. Both voted against reauthorization of the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act.

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The Amish don’t use phones, right?

faraway on June 13, 2013 at 5:25 PM

By Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. John Conyers

A libertarian and a socialist walk into a NSA meeting…

Resist We Much on June 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM

sounds good to me…

cmsinaz on June 13, 2013 at 5:27 PM

By Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. John Conyers

Wow.

Party on, Garth.

Robert_Paulson on June 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM

But now that we know they have this data, can we bury them in subpoenas for the records. Say you are on the ‘Do Not Call List’ and constantly get calls from telemarketers; the NSA has the proof make them produce it.

meci on June 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM

So WHO exempted the mosks from surveillance ?

burrata on June 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

So WHO exempted the mosks from surveillance ?

burrata on June 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

very good question…

cmsinaz on June 13, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Time to fix the NSA

Fix as in ….fix a dog fix ?

burrata on June 13, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Brilliant!

esr1951 on June 13, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Which one is Felix Ungar and which one is Oscar Madison…?

d1carter on June 13, 2013 at 5:42 PM

You had me at Amash, but lost me at Conyers…..

Lest we forget

wytshus on June 13, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is the Chairman of the House Liberty Caucus. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee. Both voted against reauthorization of the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act.

Don’t forget your history

In November 2002, the New York Times reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was developing a tracking system called “Total Information Awareness” (TIA), which was intended to detect terrorists through analyzing troves of information. The system, developed under the direction of John Poindexter, then-director of DARPA’s Information Awareness Office, was envisioned to give law enforcement access to private data without suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant.

TIA purported to capture the “information signature” of people so that the government could track potential terrorists and criminals involved in “low-intensity/low-density” forms of warfare and crime. The goal was to track individuals through collecting as much information about them as possible and using computer algorithms and human analysis to detect potential activity.

The project called for the development of “revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories,” which would contain information from multiple sources to create a “virtual, centralized, grand database.” This database would be populated by transaction data contained in current databases such as financial records, medical records, communication records, and travel records as well as new sources of information. Also fed into the database would be intelligence data.

A key component of the TIA project was to develop data-mining or knowledge discovery tools that would sort through the massive amounts of information to find patterns and associations. TIA would also develop search tools such as Project Genoa, which Admiral Poindexter’s former employer Syntek Technologies assisted in developing. TIA aimed to fund the development of more such tools and data-mining technology to help analysts understand and even “preempt” future action.

A further crucial component was the development of biometric technology to enable the identification and tracking of individuals. DARPA had already funded its “Human ID at a Distance” program, which aimed to positively identify people from a distance through technologies such as face recognition or gait recognition. A nationwide identification system would have been of great assistance to such a project by providing an easy means to track individuals across multiple information sources.

DARPA’s Broad Agency Announcement 02-08 soliciting proposals from industry stated that the initial plan was for a five year research project into these various technologies. The interim goal was to build “leave-behind prototypes with a limited number of proof-of-concept demonstrations in extremely high risk, high payoff areas.”

In September 2003, Congress eliminated funding for the controversial project and closed the Pentagon’s Information Awareness Office, which had developed TIA. This does not, however, necessarily signal the end of other government data-mining initiatives that are similar to TIA. Projects such as the Novel Intelligence from Massive Data within the Intelligence Community Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) will apparently move forward. The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration are also working on data-mining projects that will fuse commercial databases, public databases, and intelligence data and had meetings with TIA developers.
•TIA Report to Congress May 2003.
•Congress Report Executive Summary and FAQ May 2003.
•TIA System Description (PDF, 4.5 MB).
• Poindexter’s August 2002 Speech.
• Booz Allen Hamilton defense contract, $62 million awarded for research into Total Information Awareness project.
•Pentagon Briefing Transcript on Surveillance System. November 20, 2002.
•DARPA Technology briefings. August 2002 (see under “Information Awareness Office”).
•DARPA FY03 budget. For TIA budget details see sections on PE 0602301E, Project ST-28 and PE 0603760E, Project CCC-01, and PE 0602301E, Project ST-11.
•DARPA Response (PDF) to public scrutiny.
•Security with Privacy (PDF) – DARPA ISAT Study 2002.

BDU-33 on June 13, 2013 at 5:46 PM

d1carter on June 13, 2013 at 5:42 PM

lol

cmsinaz on June 13, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Has anyone ever heard of the Sensitive Operations Review Committee in the Justice Department/FBI? They didn’t want any surveillance of the mosques…

d1carter on June 13, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Prism–Sucks as a terrorism detector, but really comes in handy if you need to flip a congress critter or Supreme Court justice.

cornbred on June 13, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Has anyone ever heard of the Sensitive Operations Review Committee in the Justice Department/FBI? They didn’t want any surveillance of the mosques…

d1carter on June 13, 2013 at 5:50 PM

No. Is that true?

VegasRick on June 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

It’s not quite “Serenity now!”, but it’s a start.

Ward Cleaver on June 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM

No. Is that true?

VegasRick on June 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Yep. It came out in the Mueller testimony today…Google it. I found an artcle about it.

d1carter on June 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM

The Amish don’t use phones, right?

faraway on June 13, 2013 at 5:25 PM

They are made of wood and are connected by strings.

Rich H on June 13, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Is that true?

VegasRick on June 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Via Hoft :
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/061213-659753-all-intrusive-obama-terror-dragnet-excludes-mosques.htm

burrata on June 13, 2013 at 6:05 PM

VegasRick on June 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

We do know the panel was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel’s formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.

Source: Investor’s business Daily , June 12, 2013; widely cited on the web.

One of these days we are going to get an average guy in a leadership position in the US government and he is going to look GREAT!

IlikedAUH2O on June 13, 2013 at 6:06 PM

BTW, Mueller said today he didn’t know who was in charge of the IRS investigation…

d1carter on June 13, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Has anyone ever heard of the Sensitive Operations Review Committee in the Justice Department/FBI? They didn’t want any surveillance of the mosques…

Yah, where 80% of these mosques teach sharia law and grow up the jihadis. If the FBI had been listening to a certain mosque in Boston when the elder bomber brother had shouted down the Imam preaching peace, they maybe could have stopped the carnage at the marathon by having picked up Tsarnaev for questioning and stopping him in his tracks.
Seems to me that all this surveillance isn’t just about picking up Muslim terrorists…FBI doesn’t hesitate to check out our churches and synagogues…ya know with all those Christain and Jewish terrorists running around. Unstinkinbelievable.

gracie on June 13, 2013 at 6:16 PM

BDU-33 on June 13, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Excellent. Thanks for that. Please contribute more often.

John the Libertarian on June 13, 2013 at 6:19 PM

This John Conyers? Talking to the Democratic Socialists and calling the Tea Party(who saw this coming a mile away) “small and dismissable”?

MadisonConservative on June 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Is that true?

VegasRick on June 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Via Hoft :
http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/061213-659753-all-intrusive-obama-terror-dragnet-excludes-mosques.htm

burrata on June 13, 2013 at 6:05 PM

You can bet that they would be all over any church or temple in a heartbeat if they thought there were threats there. This is lunacy, it’s worse than the TSA giving a pass to muzzies and molesting blue-haired little old ladies.

But it’s all so-o-o-o politically correct.

slickwillie2001 on June 13, 2013 at 6:33 PM

There is a reason that what the NSA does is kept secret. Making it “transparent” will not only reduce how effective it is, but actually increase the likelihood that some politician will get hold of some domestic information and abuse it.

Count to 10 on June 13, 2013 at 7:13 PM

I saw Mr. Muller on the news saying that this current program could have stopped 9/11/2001. So could the enforcement of immigration laws but we all know how that goes.

Cindy Munford on June 13, 2013 at 7:21 PM

… increase the likelihood that some politician will get hold of some domestic information and abuse it.

Count to 10 on June 13, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Like that hasn’t happened, yet, right?

The current laws are being skirted by allowing a company in a foreign country tap into our telecom systems. Since this company exists outside the U.S., we can audit all its data as though it’s international. For the NSA all foreign data is fair game.

Some of these things are being kept secret because they are nefarious in nature. Light is the best antiseptic.

ROCnPhilly on June 13, 2013 at 7:33 PM

yo kids…..

….the Islamists, jihadists, or otherwise inhabitants of those invaded Middle-Eastern and Asian territories have expressed NOT their hatred for America’s “freedom and values,” but their anger and retaliation against the U.S. government’s violence, occupations, and criminality on their lands and against their people.

In other words, not only are we less safe because of our own government’s criminal spying intrusions and predictions against us, but we are less safe because our stupid government bureaucrats keep starting wars of aggression for no good reason against foreigners who will obviously retaliate!

So, if you really want to prevent terrorism, then stop invading countries that were of no threat to us, stop drone bombing and murdering innocent civilians on a daily basis, and stop occupying foreign lands that are not U.S. territories, with U.S. government apparatus and military bases.

And finally….

stop believing government bureaucrats and their little helpers who say that these bureaucrats aren’t illegally eavesdropping on your private life.

roflmmfao

donabernathy on June 13, 2013 at 8:42 PM

There is a reason that what the NSA does is kept secret. Making it “transparent” will not only reduce how effective it is, but actually increase the likelihood that some politician will get hold of some domestic information and abuse it.

Count to 10 on June 13, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Oh come on now, -a department of the federal government corrupted to advantage the party in power?

slickwillie2001 on June 13, 2013 at 9:09 PM

Brilliant!

esr1951 on June 13, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Indeed.

BDU-33 on June 13, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Excellent. Thanks for that. Please contribute more often.

John the Libertarian on June 13, 2013 at 6:19 PM

Second the motion.

AesopFan on June 13, 2013 at 11:26 PM

The TSA needs to be added to the Justin Amash / John Conyers bill:

Using the same arguments which Amash and Conyers made above:

It’s not possible, that every airline passenger on every airline in the country—is “relevant” to a ongoing terrorism investigation.

Physical searches should be limited to cases where the government can present at least “specific and articulable” facts that show that the desired information gained by a search is “relevant and material” to an authorized investigation, and that the data pertain only to individuals under investigation.

We need to restore sanity to travel, and quit strip-searching aged grandmothers, small children, and people using medical devices. This gross and unconstitutional searching at airports is being done simply because the TSA is too lazy and/or too stupid to use a more rational method of searching, and refuses to profile passengers and sort them into risk groups like the Israelis do.

landlines on June 14, 2013 at 3:00 AM

Fill PRISM with a little extra white noise.

Start a social media campaign to flood the directory assistance number in some strategic countries with calls from the U.S.

Extra scary for a PRISM watcher if calls are directory assistant transferred in-country and not direct dialed.

Carnac on June 14, 2013 at 1:06 PM