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Category Archives: Surveillance

Why the Current Section 215 Reform Debate Doesn’t Matter Much

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Friday, May 22, 2015 at 8:32 AM

The ACLU’s Chris Soghoian explains (time 25:52-30:55) why the current debate over Section 215 of the Patriot Act is just a minor facet of a large and complex bulk collection program by the FBI and the NSA. There were 180 orders authorized last year by the FISA Court under Section 215 — 180 orders issued . . .
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With Friends Like These

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell – both Republican Senators from Kentucky – despise the USA Freedom Act for different reasons.  As readers know, the Freedom Act ends bulk collection while giving the NSA the ability quickly to query metadata held by telecommunications providers under a narrow and specific court-supervised standard.  The bill gives neither civil . . .
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DOJ’s Inspector General Releases New Review of FBI Use of Section 215 Orders

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 2:27 PM

The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice has released a new unclassified report reviewing the FBI’s use of Section 215 orders from 2007 through 2009. Specifically, the review examines the progress of the Department and the FBI in addressing the three recommendations in the OIG’s March 2008 report: that the . . .
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The Privacy Paradox: The Privacy Benefits of Privacy Threats

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Here’s something a little outside the normal Lawfare fare but which Lawfare readers might find interesting: A new paper we have written about all the privacy benefits we receive from technologies we typically think of as privacy eroding. Entitled “The Privacy Paradox: The Privacy Benefits of Privacy Threats,” and published by Brookings, the paper sets . . .
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PCLOB’s Rachel Brand on Section 215

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 7:00 PM

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s Rachel Brand penned an opinion piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor.  It opens: The heated debate in Congress about whether to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act has focused mainly on the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records ever since details of that program were leaked to the . . .
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NSA Spying Will Begin Winding Down This Week: Justice Department Memo

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 6:11 PM

Dustin Volz of the National Journal has obtained a memo from the Department of Justice circulated among congressional offices today that says the NSA will need to begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata collection program authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act by Friday, May 22nd. The memo makes clear . . .
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Down to the Wire on the Patriot Act

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Julian Hattem has a good piece in the Hill on the current state of play in the Senate with respect to expiration of the Patriot Act provisions in less than two weeks: Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said he would allow a vote on legislation overhauling the nation’s surveillance programs, which could give him more . . .
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A Sunset of Section 215 Is Increasingly Likely – And May Prompt Overhaul

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 3:12 PM

Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently made comments to press suggesting that he believed the sunset for Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act will occur sometime during June 1, 2015, and that this was no big deal. Senator Burr told MSNBC: Everybody needs to realize that this act expires on . . .
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McConnell Introduces 2 Month NSA Extension

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Friday, May 15, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Likely you’ve heard: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last night introduced a bill that would reauthorize portions of the Patriot Act set to expire on June 1 for two months, giving lawmakers extra time to consider whether to approve the USA Freedom Act, a clean re-authorization of the Patriot Act’s provisions, or some other formulation. . . .
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Forty Years After Church-Pike: What’s Different Now?

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Friday, May 15, 2015 at 10:35 AM

That is the title of remarks which I will deliver this morning at the National Security Agency, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Church and Pike hearings.  My speech begins as follows: You honor me greatly by inviting me back to address you today. I hope to prove worthy of it. About ten years ago, when . . .
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Russell Wheeler on the Changing Composition of the FISC

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Friday, May 15, 2015 at 9:15 AM

My Brookings colleague Russell Wheeler last month published this article on the changing composition of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on the Brookings FixGov blog. It updates his Lawfare Research Paper from last year on the subject. The post opens: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has designated two new members of the eleven-member Foreign Intelligence . . .
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So What’s in the New USA Freedom Act, Anyway?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 11:51 PM

The House has now passed the USA Freedom Act. If you feel the need to hear Mel Gibson shouting “Freeeedom!” in response, well, don’t thank us. We live to serve: The clock is now ticking on Senate action before the current Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires at the end of the month. Majority . . .
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Clapper and the Costs of Overlooking Use Restrictions

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 2:55 PM

The Second Circuit’s decision in ACLU v. Clapper holding that the section 215 metadata program exceeds statutory authorization has flaws, including this: The ruling focuses on initial collection exclusively, and thus fails to reckon properly with the tight restrictions imposed on government analysts’ access to and use of metadata. It may seem counter-intuitive to look . . .
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Talk Shows this Week on FISA

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 10:10 AM

The talk shows have been busy this week discussing FISA issues, both because of the Second Circuit decision last week and because of the House consideration of the USA Freedom Act. The Diane Rehm Show had a good discussion on Monday, in which I participated. Radio Times had an unusually good hour with Josh Gerstein of Politico, . . .
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House Passes USA Freedom Act

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 7:16 PM

Likely you’ve heard about the 338-to-88 vote; here’s a report from the New York Times:  WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to end the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records, exerting enormous pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who insists that existing dragnet sweeps continue in defiance of . . .
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An Alternative Approach to 215 for the Senate

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Without getting into all the different angles and arguments that are currently being made, this post is intended to offer an alternative way forward for Members of Congress that support aspects of the USA Freedom Act regarding transparency and accountability, but are concerned about scaling back surveillance authorities with an untested framework for the telephone . . .
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Today: House Votes on USA FREEDOM Act

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 11:19 AM

The full U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to consider H.R. 2048, otherwise known as the USA Freedom Act today. Yesterday, the White House expressed support for the bill, as the Rules Committee voted 8-3 along party lines to prohibit amendments from the floor. The bill is expected to pass easily on a bipartisan basis. We’ll . . .
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Surveillance Reform: Privacy Board Turns to E.O. 12,333

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 10:27 AM

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is holding its first public meeting outside Washington at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center to examine surveillance activities under E.O. 12,333 that are directed at international terrorism. A livestream will be available at the PCLOB’s website; my statement to the Board can be found here. My friend and Lawfare colleague . . .
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PCLOB Public Meeting on 12333 Counterterrorism Activities

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 10:10 AM

The proceedings will get underway at 10:15 a.m., at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.  Witness testimony and other information can be found here; streaming video is below, too.

Senators’ Questionable Claims about NSA Bulk Collection

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Monday, May 11, 2015 at 12:00 PM

On May 7th, 2015, the Second Circuit issued a ruling that declared the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records was clearly unlawful under the Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The ruling provided another boost to supporters of surveillance reform and the backers of the USA FREEDOM Act. Hours after the ruling came down, . . .
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