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Ackerman reports: "A Senate bill promoted as a surveillance reform would codify the ability of the National Security Agency to search its troves of foreign phone and email communications for Americans' information, and permit law enforcement agencies to search the vast databases as well."

Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein. (photo: J Scott Applewhite/AP)
Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein. (photo: J Scott Applewhite/AP)


Feinstein Promotes Bill to Strengthen NSA's Hand on Warrantless Searches

By Spencer Ackerman, Guardian UK

15 November 13

 

Fisa Improvements Act, advanced as surveillance reform, would make permanent loophole known as 'backdoor search provision'

Senate bill promoted as a surveillance reform would codify the ability of the National Security Agency to search its troves of foreign phone and email communications for Americans' information, and permit law enforcement agencies to search the vast databases as well.

The Fisa Improvements Act, promoted by Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, would both make permanent a loophole permitting the NSA to search for Americans' identifying information without a warrant – and, civil libertarians fear, contains an ambiguity that might allow the FBI, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies to do the same thing.

"For the first time, the statute would explicitly allow the government to proactively search through the NSA data troves of information without a warrant," said Michelle Richardson, the surveillance lobbyist for the ACLU.

"It may also expand current practices by allowing law enforcement to directly access US person information that was nominally collected for foreign intelligence purposes. This fourth amendment back door needs to be closed, not written into stone."

Feinstein's bill passed the committee on an 11 to 4 vote on 31 October. An expanded report on its provisions released by the committee this week added details about the ability of both intelligence and law enforcement to sift through foreign communications databases that it accumulates under section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008.

Section 6 of Feinstein's bill blesses what her committee colleague Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat and civil libertarian, has called the "backdoor search provision," which the Guardian revealed thanks to a leak by Edward Snowden.

The section permits intelligence agencies to search "the contents of communications" collected primarily overseas for identifying information on US citizens, resident aliens and people inside the US, provided that the "purpose of the query is to obtain foreign intelligence information or information necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or to assess its importance."

Section 6 bills itself as a "restriction," but it would not stop the NSA from performing the warrantless search, merely requiring intelligence agencies to log their queries and make them "available for review" to Congress, the Fisa court, the Justice Department and inspectors general inside the executive branch.

Additionally, the report on Section 6 explicitly states that the provision "does not limit the authority of law enforcement agencies to conduct queries of data acquired pursuant to Section 702 of Fisa for law enforcement purposes."

There is ambiguity surrounding whether the FBI can currently search through the NSA's foreign communications databases, or is reliant on the NSA to pass on information from the databases relevant to the bureau.

A declassified Fisa court document from 2011 refers to "FBI minimization procedures," but it is unclear what those procedures are. A copy of the FBI minimization procedures from 2009, acquired by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act is almost completely redacted.

So is the section in the government's most recent report on its Section 702 collection dealing with the FBI's role, though it contains references to how the FBI "receive[s] … unminimized Section 70 acquired communications" from the NSA.

Feinstein's bill "seems to imply there is currently some authority for law enforcement to query the database, which [intelligence community] officials have not mentioned in any of their remarks on Section 702," said Alan Butler, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The provision is also unclear about whether law enforcement agencies can search through the foreign communications databases for information on US persons. Feinstein's office did not respond to a request for clarification by deadline.

The ambiguity concerns civil libertarians, as it opens a door for law enforcement agencies to sidestep warrant requirements.

"If Senator Feinstein or other congressional supporters of this bill believe that it would in fact expand law enforcement access to the database, that would be an unjustified expansion of surveillance over Americans," Butler said.

"Intelligence community leaders and those in charge of the congressional oversight committees have stressed many times that Section 702 is supposed to be about collecting foreign communications, and the law should make clear that is so."

The surveillance blogger Marcy Wheeler first noticed the controversial provisions, and highlighted another on Thursday: the bill would permit contractors access to the NSA's foreign communications databases. "The committee believes that, to the greatest extent practicable, all queries conducted pursuant to the authorities established under this section should be performed by federal employees," according to the bill.

"Nonetheless, the committee acknowledges that it may be necessary in some cases to use contractors to perform such queries. By using the term 'government personnel' the committee does not intend to prohibit such contractor use."

Wyden has sounded vague warnings about the existing "backdoor search" provision, and said in a statement released by the committee that the Feinstein bill "would give intelligence agencies wide latitude to conduct warrantless searches for Americans' phone calls and emails under Section 702." The statement was joined by Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, and Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat.

Feinstein's bill is a direct competitor to a different surveillance bill in the Senate taken up by the judiciary committee. Sponsored by the committee's chairman, Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy, and supported by Wyden and Udall, the bill would require a warrant to search of any NSA foreign communications database for any specific US person information.

 

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+52 # Activista 2013-11-15 23:09
This is another sick bill from paranoid Feinstein to strengthen the power of the totalitarian state.
" .... Voted in FAVOR of funding the Iraq War without conditions..etc . "
 
 
+21 # tomo 2013-11-16 12:23
You have a good memory, Activista. If we progressives needed evidence that Feinstein was playing for the bad guys, that blank check for the invasion of Iraq should have done it. I can't imagine why we Californians weren't up to replacing her in the last election.
 
 
+10 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-11-16 23:22
I'm from California. Feinstein is my senator. Correction:"was my senator."
 
 
+3 # RLF 2013-11-18 07:02
Can you say DINO.
 
 
+49 # tigerlille 2013-11-15 23:56
My God this woman is a corrupt hack. When is California going to vote her out of office?
 
 
+23 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-11-16 05:28
Most likely, not before we 'naive Yanks' put into place, in CA and in every other state, immediate verification of our having voted for whatever and whomever, including tallies, by confidential code being given to each voter, and that code appearing on a vote screen at polling places.

Only when election fraud and wrongful disenfranchisem ent goes bye bye, will the bought off pols., such as Feinstein, go bye bye.
 
 
+1 # karenvista 2013-11-19 01:16
Quoting ritaague:
Most likely, not before we 'naive Yanks' put into place, in CA and in every other state, immediate verification of our having voted for whatever and whomever, including tallies, by confidential code being given to each voter, and that code appearing on a vote screen at polling places.

Only when election fraud and wrongful disenfranchisement goes bye bye, will the bought off pols., such as Feinstein, go bye bye.



You mean the system we can't build which has been used in Venezuela, and checked by President Jimmy Carter for years.
 
 
+21 # babaregi 2013-11-16 03:28
Can you say Oligarch?
 
 
+37 # tedrey 2013-11-16 03:57
I'm not sure that the proper response to an organization which has betrayed the public trust is to formally hand them the whole set of keys.
 
 
+34 # walt 2013-11-16 07:10
Time to see Feinstein for what she really is, a member of the lobby that will keep the USA in middle east wars and any actions designed to support those wars.

She voted for the Iraq invasion, the Patriot Act,the NDAA and more. Her loyalties don't seem to be for America. Must be for some other place!
 
 
+2 # karenvista 2013-11-19 01:17
Quoting walt:
Time to see Feinstein for what she really is, a member of the lobby that will keep the USA in middle east wars and any actions designed to support those wars.

She voted for the Iraq invasion, the Patriot Act,the NDAA and more. Her loyalties don't seem to be for America. Must be for some other place!



Could that other place be Israel?
 
 
+22 # Dale 2013-11-16 07:23
I now append this message to many of my emails--

Message to NSA, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and whatever other agency of the U.S. Government monitors my mail, phone, internet postings, invades my privacy, puts me on a list of subversives, and tries to interfere with my rights to free speech, peaceful protest, free association and other rights so many have fought to achieve for so long—you are a cartel of criminal organizations that violates the rights of millions in the U.S. and abroad. So far your secret renditions, torture of prisoners, drone attacks, Special Operations assassinations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity have been committed with impunity. I hope that all of you responsible will in time get your due.

Message to those on government lists. You can request NSA for your Freedom of Information Act file by going to www.nsa.gov and from the FBI by emailing foiperrequest@ic.fbi.gov When you are denied on grounds of “national security” appeal, then turn your requests over the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild so that they can do class action litigations.
 
 
+13 # reiverpacific 2013-11-16 11:25
Feinstein the FINK is goose-stepping in harmony with her handlers in the National Spy Agency, stiff arm upraised shouting "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Finkocracy"!
And the more she pushes, the more unpopular and resented the agency becomes, inviting the contempt even of the less involved citizenry, and alienating the Fragmented States' shrinking number of allies globally.
 
 
+10 # Activista 2013-11-16 11:53
"Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Finkocracy"
yes fuhrer Feinstein so far from American People - this is why the congress is voting these Iranian Sanctions to start another war.
She does not serve Americans, but masters in Tel Aviv.
 
 
+12 # tomo 2013-11-16 12:32
People are so hesitant to say what you say here because they do not wish to appear antisemitic. Truth is, there are Israeli citizens who feel they are held captive by the irrational leaders of the Israeli state much as many an Iranian living in Iran feels held captive by the irrational leaders of the Iranian state. Blind support of the Israeli government is no service to the Jewish people; and it is surely no service to the American people.
 
 
+5 # lc2365 2013-11-16 15:30
Why is this cunt still in power? She has the personality of a used condom and by the looks of her, she could use a facial to fill in those wrinkles! But I digress. This bitch is totally jacking our rights to privacy. Why the hell are Californians voting for her?? I thought Californians were cool. Apparently they are not...
 
 
+7 # Obbop 2013-11-16 16:08
Feinstein, you freak... I believe you are part of the societal cohort waging class warfare against the masses of common folks... the folks that filth such as you send overseas to defend USA elite-class and corporate interests.

You are, in my semi-educated opinions, a class enemy and you should be removed from office and, perhaps, sentenced to 5-years of harvesting the crops alongside the migrant workers... one of the many classes of folks you and your vile cohort has spat upon for far too long.
 
 
+8 # Vardoz 2013-11-16 16:23
She has proved herself to be a sell out over and over when it comes to standing up for the rights and protections of the people and should be replaced by a Progessive like Warren or Bernie Sanders. Bill Maher interviewed NSA expert Bill Binney who woked for the NSA 30 yrs and you can find it on UTube for last fri. He said Obama is worse then Bush and Chaney and they should all be impeached as wellbas the FISA court for their crimes against our constitutional rights and abusing the rule of law. He also said they are failing because they are overwhemled with the amount of information they are collecting and spending trillions for 50 to 60 branches. He also sais it doesnt matter what we think - the only thing that matters is what they think.. But what they are doing is essentially against the law and Bush and Chaney used 911 to sabotage our consritutional rights and protections.
 
 
+2 # MrBtfsplk 2013-11-17 00:20
I only read this article to see how the comments sounded.

This woman has made my skin crawl with each and every request for contributions her people send out. I was beginning to think... Is she a member of the Greedy Old Perverts? I've never even heard a comment from her that makes her sound like one any closer to human than Big Dick Cheney, himself.

Who qualified her to be a Democrat, or is this data secret, too?
 
 
0 # karenvista 2013-11-19 01:36
Quoting MrBtfsplk:
I only read this article to see how the comments sounded.

This woman has made my skin crawl with each and every request for contributions her people send out. I was beginning to think... Is she a member of the Greedy Old Perverts?



You don't probably know about the Greedy Old Perverts of which you speak.

Read "The Franklin Scandals" about the pedophilia rings run out of "Boys Town" for the leaders of the Republican Party. It will make you want to vomit and it is all documented.

We have a long-time radio personality named Ray Hill here in Houston and he has testified that "The Congressman" prior to his election as 41 used to have boys brought to him at the "Carousel Motel." When I call them the Bush Crime Family, it is not without a lot of public source, documented reason.

Hope Jed runs because there is a lot on him too. All documented, published, open-source material. If we had a journalist in the country they could use Google, just like anyone else. But then, they'd never work again.......... or be assassinated like Michael Hastings!
 
 
+3 # MrBtfsplk 2013-11-17 00:20
I only read this article to see how the comments sounded.

This woman has made my skin crawl with each and every request for contributions her people send out. I was beginning to think... Is she a member of the Greedy Old Perverts? I've never even heard a comment from her that makes her sound like one any closer to human than Big Dick Cheney, himself.

Who qualified her to be a Democrat, or is this data secret, too?
 
 
+3 # tm7devils 2013-11-17 10:50
Hey Californians, can you get rid of that bitch BEFORE she guts the constitution... ?
 
 
+2 # cymricmorty 2013-11-17 15:36
...and the cast iron Nurse Ratched 'do completes the package.
 
 
+2 # RLF 2013-11-18 07:08
All of your secrets are for the NSA but who gives money to the politicians is SECRET!!! We're upside down!
 

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