Sen. Al Franken has introduced a bill that would lift some of the steel curtain surrounding FISA and the Patriot Act. Franken explained, “I don’t want transparency only where it’s convenient to the government.”
Currently, companies are restricted by severe gag orders from disclosing information about the data that the government has requested that they turn over. Sen. Franken’s bill would change that.
According to Franken’s press release, The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 would:
Require the government to report annually on:
The number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued under key provisions of the PATRIOT Act and FISA;
· The number of searches run on that data, including the number of searches run based on data from American citizens and permanent residents;
· The general categories of information collected;
· The number of American citizens and permanent residents whose information was collected under the categories and;
· The number of American citizens and permanent residents whose information was actually reviewed by federal agents.
Allow companies to voluntarily disclose:
· The number of orders they received and complied with;
· The general categories of information they produced; and
· The number of users whose information was produced in the categories.
If this bill passed, it would be a big deal because it would eliminate the trust us to protect your freedoms while not telling you anything mentality of our legislative and executive branches. The American people would be able to know what intelligence and surveillance activities their government was involved in domestically. This information would go a long way towards adding transparency back into our broken system.
Sen. Franken said, “I believe the government must give proper weight to both keeping America safe from terrorists and protecting Americans’ privacy. And part of that is making sure that there is enough transparency so that Americans understand the protections that are in place. Based on briefings I’ve received, I believe there are reasonable safeguards in place in these programs to protect Americans’ privacy. But the American people should not have to take the government’s word for it. And I don’t want transparency only where it’s convenient to the government. The American public deserves more transparency, and my bill goes a long toward doing that.”
No one is suggesting that the government shouldn’t have the tools that they need to combat terrorism, but that the government shouldn’t have unlimited secret use of those tools for any purpose. It would be better for the country if we didn’t have to take a president’s word for it that he or she is safeguarding our liberties.
Sen. Al Franken’s proposal could be the first step in dismantling the liberty stealing abomination that is the Patriot Act.