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On Wednesday, Senator Al Franken (D. MN) made a promise:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., confers with an aide as the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights holds a hearing on
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) lashed out this morning at “the lack of transparency” surrounding the collection of Americans’ phone records. Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Franken blasted top intelligence officials for delays in declassifying secret government documents authorizing the program.

“I don’t want transparency only when it’s convenient to the government,” Franken said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, he added, “has known for weeks that this hearing was coming and ODNI released this only in the minutes before this hearing began. That doesn’t engender trust.”

Franken vowed to introduce new legislation that would force the Obama administration to reveal more about the NSA’s controversial bulk surveillance programs. - Washington Post, 7/31/13

And yesterday, he made good on that promise:

http://www.multichannel.com/...

Taking up the standard of a coalition of Internet companies and public interst groups, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill that would require more transparency around government collection of broadband and phone info.

"The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 would expand and improve ongoing government reporting about programs under the PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that have been the subject of controversy in recent weeks," Franken's office said Thursday in announcing the bill.

Franken signaled that in a hearing Wednesday (July 31) in the Senate Judiciary Committee on oversight of FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] programs. Franken chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law.

Franken's bill would force the government to disclose how many people had had their info collected, and how many had info reviewed by federal agents. It would also allow private companies to provide aggregate figures on how many requests for info they had received. - Multichannel News, 8/1/13

More below the fold.

Here's what the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 calls for:

http://www.broadcastingcable.com/...

The bill 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.

It would allow companies (it would be voluntary)  to 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."

Franken introduced his bill with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D. CT) and had this to say:

http://thehill.com/...

"The government has to give proper weight to both keeping America safe from terrorists and protecting Americans' privacy. When everything about these programs is secret and when the companies involved are under strict gag orders, the American public has no way of knowing whether we're getting that balance right," he said. "I think that's bad for privacy and bad for democracy." - The Hill, 7/31/13
Franken had previously sent a letter to President Obama signed by 63 Internet and computer companies and public interest groups calling for more transparency:
If you would like more information about the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, you can contact Senator Franken's office for more details:

(202) 224-5641

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 02:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Without having read the bill (5+ / 0-)

    More disclosure of information is generally a good thing.

    I'm disappointed that he apparently has included no provisions for a public advocate/guardian at FISC court proceedings, or for disclosure of redacted FISC rulings.

    But broadly speaking, without knowing the specifics (other than as purportedly summarized), this disclosure bill seems like a pretty decent start, although I have some concerns about the actual workability of some of it (i.e, "the number of Americans" stuff).

    But, look -- more Congressional DEBATE about the privacy/security balance.  Why, geez, I could have sworn someone just recently called for this . . . nah, that can't be right -- never mind.

    •  I found it quite troubling that the public (7+ / 0-)

      advocate was described as being the person representing The Constitution.  

      I found that troubling because everyone in the room especially the Judge during the discussions about warrants, etc. should represent the Constitution.

      Something is terribly wrong if a Judge is not representing the Constitution - the inference is that Judges can't be trusted to uphold the Constitution.  

      That's a really BIG problem that would be much more far reaching than this particular issue - this big particular issue - but still if it is a problem finding Judges who would uphold the Constitution for a few FISA court slots, then we are screwed.

      •  I think you're reading too much into that (0+ / 0-)

        That was just a description; I don't it implies anything quite so nefarious about the existing proceedings.

        •  I am not "reading too much into that". (4+ / 0-)

          Not at all.  The irony is that the Judiciary is probably going to be the most aggressive about pushback on such an idea because they know that if there has to be another party added to a warrant hearing, that's a pretty direct assertion that they are not doing their job properly.

          There are a lot of people who think, "Oh good.  A public advocate.  Sounds great."  But most don't think about important details like who appoints this person?  Who is this person?  Is there one or are there many?  Would this public advocate have adequate funding to mount a reasonable challenge?  Would this public advocate have access to all of the case files?

          One proposal suggests that this public advocate be selected by the committee that currently advises the Administration as to whether what they are doing now is Constitutional - seems to me that a public advocate selected by that committee would not be likely to challenge anything they've recommended.

          But whatever - don't think too much about how deep the wound may go - apply a bandaid and skip cleaning the wound - but don't complain when you find gangrene starting to take hold.

    •  FISA/FISC/FISCR/FBI/PRISM/XKEYSCORE/????? (6+ / 0-)

      Reggid:  At first I thought I was going to agree with you, and I did, until I got to the part where you said.

      "... this bill seems like a pretty decent start ..."
       I don't think it is decent at all.  I think it is a crappy start.

      We need more than just gross numbers, and that is about all this bill requires, and it only requires it once a year!  Franken says,

      "... the American public has no way of knowing whether we're getting that balance right ...,"
      but gross figures don't do that.  

      This bill is preposterous pap* proposed to pacify the people.  (Try that as a tongue twister.)  We need some legislation with teeth in it.  This bill doesn't even have gums.

      *Pap: an idea, talk, book, or the like, lacking substance or real value.

      •  I notice you don't offer an alternative. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        howarddream

        What are you suggesting?  That the FISC and all NSA programs be shut down?  That's pure fantasy, and a total non-starter.

        •  That's a really mediocre strawman, you (5+ / 0-)

          really need to work on your technique. A quality strawman must be something that reasonable people can reasonably attribute to the intended victim of the fallacy. Your proposition, which nobody has proposed but you and which nobody in their right mind would attribute to anybody but somebody expressly stating it in so many words like you did is, as you said, probably a non-starter That's why it is a total fail as a strawman.

          BTW, if that is truly the only alternative to Franken's proposal that you can imagine, you have my sincere condolences.

          That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

          by enhydra lutris on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 05:02:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I notice you still haven't offered any proposal (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            howarddream

            Amazing that you spent two whole paragraphs whining about the post without answering anything.  Do you have any suggestions for reforms, or are you just going to give us more rhetorical dissertations?

            •  If you can't think of any, I pity you. It is not (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              congenitalefty

              job, nor the commenters who you attacked with your feeblebrained stawman to supply your imagination and ingenuity. That is your job. Critics can give hints, but, of course, they cannot help some.

              That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

              by enhydra lutris on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 07:00:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've already proposed some (0+ / 0-)

                I offered some proposals above, in my first post.

                This is a diary about possible reforms.

                This is a thread about possible reforms.

                My post was about possible reforms.

                The response was about possible reforms.

                My reply was about possible reforms.

                You responses are now about . . . whining and crying and refusing to discuss reforms.

                Um, no offense, but if you don't want to talk about possible reforms, then why are you here, exactly?

                Is it that talking about reforms makes your "Obama is the devil" narrative harder to maintain?

                So, any thoughts on potential reforms, or just more distractions?

                •  Again, bullshit strawmen are on the fallacy (0+ / 0-)

                  monger proposing them. I have never said Is it that talking about reforms makes your

                  "Obama is the devil"
                  or anything remotely like it. Your constant resort to this crude fallacy shows me that you have nothing rational or substantive to say on the subject at hand.

                  That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                  by enhydra lutris on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 07:54:46 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Shut them down now. (4+ / 0-)

          Immediately

          Non starter in your mind only.

        •  Repeal the Patriot Act. Now. (5+ / 0-)

          Break up DHS back into its constituent agencies and audit them, not just their budgets but their staff and their practices. GAO-style.

          Meanwhile, write a new piece of security policy that is constitutional. Don't rush it--take a good long time over getting it right.

          Something I know Congress isn't concerned with anymore--getting it right--but this time, make an exception.

          Ou sont les neigedens d'antan?

          by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 08:02:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Wht do I suggest regarding FISA, etc.? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BeninSC

          More than just a suggestion, I recommend that a high-level, bi-partisan Congressional committee, such as the Church Committee was in the 1970s, be convened to address all the problems caused by the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and draft entirely new legislation to provide meaningful information, with strong controls, and strict oversight, to prevent abuses and protect people's privacy in a Constitutional manner.

          The Patriot Act was conceived in fear, right after the 9/11 attacks, drafted in haste, and passed in a panic, 45 days after the attacks, without even being read by most members of Congress before they voted on it.

          There are so  any problems with FISA that different members of Congress are proposing what I would call knee-jerk legislation to correct some portions of it without considering the process as a whole.  To me. it is a band-aid approach, when major surgery is what is really needed.

          Here is just one example of how a recent FISA Amendment Act reads:

          SEC. 403. REPEALS.

              (a) Repeal of Protect America Act of 2007 Provisions-

                  (1) AMENDMENTS TO FISA-

                      (A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in section 404, sections 105A, 105B, and 105C of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1805a, 1805b, and 1805c) are repealed.

                      (B) TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENTS-

                          (i) TABLE OF CONTENTS- The table of contents in the first section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) is amended by striking the items relating to sections 105A, 105B, and 105C.

                          (ii) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS- Except as provided in section 404, section 103(e) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1803(e)) is amended--

                              (I) in paragraph (1), by striking ‘105B(h) or 501(f)(1)’ and inserting ‘501(f)(1) or 702(h)(4)’; and

                              (II) in paragraph (2), by striking ‘105B(h) or 501(f)(1)’ and inserting ‘501(f)(1) or 702(h)(4)’.

                  (2) REPORTING REQUIREMENTS- Except as provided in section 404, section 4 of the Protect America Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-55; 121 Stat. 555) is repealed.

                  (3) TRANSITION PROCEDURES- Except as provided in section 404, subsection (b) of section 6 of the Protect America Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-55; 121 Stat. 556) is repealed.

              (b) FISA Amendments Act of 2008-

                  (1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in section 404, effective December 31, 2012, title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended by section 101(a), is repealed.

                  (2) TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENTS- Effective December 31, 2012--

                      (A) the table of contents in the first section of such Act (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) is amended by striking the items related to title VII;

                      (B) except as provided in section 404, section 601(a)(1) of such Act (50 U.S.C. 1871(a)(1)) is amended to read as such section read on the day before the date of the enactment of this Act; and

                      (C) except as provided in section 404, section 2511(2)(a)(ii)(A) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking ‘or a court order pursuant to section 704 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978’.


          Does this make sense to you?  There is text like this throughout the document, thereby making it virtually impossible to decipher the true meaning or effect.

          I propose that such a Committee would have two years to assess how well current legislation is working, and what changes would be needed to improve surveillance and, at the same time, protect American's civil rights guaranteed under the Constitution.  

          This could include possible changes in information gathering requirements and processes for securing legal authorizations, security controls and strict enforcement (including safeguards against unauthorized review or release of information gathered), how the FISA Court judges are appointed and how they are top operate, providing advocate counsel to the courts to represent the people and the Constitution, determining what information is needed from both the courts and the Department of Justice to provide adequate oversight, and other matters of concern to Committee members, members of Congress, Constitutional experts, civil rights groups, and the general public.

          The Committee would have two years to develop the new legislation, because it is my understanding that 2015 is the sunset date for the existing extensions for both the Patriot Act and FISA.  Existing legislation would remain in effect until that date, unless Congress decides that some amendments are considered to be mandatory in the interim.

          Is that enough, or do I need to fill in some blanks or provide more justification?

          •  Super thorough explanation! (0+ / 0-)

            Comments that offer solutions are some of the best we see here on Daily Kos. Thank you.

            Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. (Click on orange text to go to linked content.) Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

            "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT -9.62, -9.13

            by BeninSC on Sun Aug 04, 2013 at 07:15:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  This is the provision I liked best. (0+ / 0-)
            (B) except as provided in section 404, section 601(a)(1) of such Act (50 U.S.C. 1871(a)(1)) is amended to read as such section read on the day before the date of the enactment of this Act;
            Are people really supposed to remember how a particular section was worded on the day before the day that this Act was enacted?  And, yet, the wording quoted above is now actually enshrined in federal law.
  •  As long as this is generally accepted as a start (8+ / 0-)

    then I'm on board, sort of.   But really, it's pretty weak tea.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 02:20:52 PM PDT

    •  This is just one of a few bills and amendments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howarddream, CroneWit

      being offered.

      Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

      by poopdogcomedy on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 02:26:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, and it will be weakened, (6+ / 0-)

        not strengthenend.  Just watch.

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 02:38:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Your are absolutely right ..... (4+ / 0-)

        However, it is too soon to be proposing piecemeal legislation to resolve a major set of problems.  We need our legislators to launch an full investigation of all the root problems in our surveillance system, not just the symptoms, and then propose a comprehensive set of solutions, not just one at a time.

        This reminds me of that "Old MacDonald" song ...

        Here a bill, there a bill, everywhere a bill, bill ...
        •  How about, just for grins, we do both, since (4+ / 0-)

          Congress, last I noticed, is pretty incapable of doing much of anything, let alone a substantial overhaul of some authoritarian shit that many of them voted for originally (FISA, Patriot Act, etc.) or support (NSA spying).

           Let us not be asking them to kick this can down the road, which is what holding out for comprehensive legislation amounts to.

          That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

          by enhydra lutris on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 05:09:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  "full investigation of all the root problems" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          congenitalefty, kurt, wayoutinthestix

          YES!

          I'm especially interested to learn that the FISA Court's 'secret body of common law' contains BEFORE new legislation is voted on.

          I watched the hearing an I didn't see any 'blasting' by Franken or anyone.  I saw Franken 'say mildly' the things quoted in this diary.

          Franken's bill (as described here) seems designed to support the Internet providers with the ability to release fuller information about the  requests they receive from agencies.  The IPs starting asking for this soon after the NSA Disclosures began, because the NSA's slides showed something close to a partnership between NSA and the IPs.  In order to salvage their user's trust, the IPs began demanding to be allowed to publish more reporting numbers of when/how they responded to agency requests.

          So I see this bill as being for the benefit of the IPs, not for the benefit of people.  Even with that restriction, the bill seems weak.  Only an annual report?  Reporting could be done daily, weekly, monthly.  (And most 'annual' reports by the government only come out a year or two later.)

          And asking the NSA to report 'numbers' seems like giving them a license to deceive, and then get points for 'compliance'.  NSA is harvesting, analyzing, and storing every electron-packet that passes through the Internet's fiber optic cables.  Yet they define 'collect' in a very narrow way that lets them say 'only 300 last year'.

          When I saw Franken on the Senate panel, I was encouraged; he might bring something good, I thought.  I am disappointed with what he has presented; I had hoped for better from him.

    •  It's fairly weak tea. (5+ / 0-)

      As one of many bills, I've got no problem with it.
      As the bellwether legislation, I'd have a problem with it.
      Amash/Conyers is better.

      Repealing section 215 would be still better.

      Repealing the whole damned thing and making them start from scratch would be even better.

      Civil liberties groups should really be fighting for repeal, not reform. If they fight for repeal, they will get reform. If they fight for reform, they will probably get nothing but weak tea.

      Ou sont les neigedens d'antan?

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 07:10:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's a good start, but, it is only a start. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    howarddream

    I'd prefer to see a more comprehensive bill from the get go.  One which includes structural changes to the FISC (a public advocate, Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation of FISC members), in additon to the transparancy measures.  

    With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 03:32:19 PM PDT

  •  Huh. I guess that's good, but something much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wayoutinthestix

    more blunt and direct is needed. Amash/Conyers was a good direction to go. That said, the more the merrier, as long as one bill isn't taken as a substitute for the others.

    Ou sont les neigedens d'antan?

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 07:08:03 PM PDT

  •  This is not good enough. I am sorry (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paolo

    but this is just papering over the big hole that is left of our democracy. We need to repeal the AUMF, The Patriot Act, The FISA Act and the Protect America Act. We cannot leave any vestige behind. And after that we need to dismantle the war on drugs act with its seizure of goods and property without due process. And THEN we need to root out every Koch minion and every blackwater type contractor. We are not getting back our democracy with this "too little too late" stuff.

    We will NEVER know how many people were blackmailed with data from the NSA collection nor will we know WHO is doing the blackmailing.

    Hi NSA. I am doing constitutionally protected stuff - like free speech. Too bad you are not!

    by glitterscale on Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 05:09:09 AM PDT

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