Legislative Updates: 113th Congress
Rep. Deutch Cosponsors the Ending Secret Law Act
In response to growing concerns about the scope of NSA surveillance programs, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21) has cosponsored H.R. 2475, the Ending Secret Law Act. This legislation would address concerns over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's (FISC) ability to drastically expand federal surveillance powers without disclosure to the American public. Some of these concerns were first brought to the attention of the U.S. Justice Department in the fall of 2012, when Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) raised concerns that FISC had been interpreting Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act in a shockingly broad manner inconsistent with the commonly held interpretation of the law.
However, because the Administration’s requests and the FISC’s rulings are highly classified, the American public and even the majority of Congress were not aware of these developments. Section 215 establishes a relevance standard that requires concrete information linking a person to a terrorist investigation before the NSA can secure that person’s information. Instead we have learned that Section 215 has been interpreted by FISC to say that any and all persons’ records may be considered relevant— therefore allowing the NSA to collect sensitive information on of millions of innocent Americans.
The Ending Secret Law Act would obligate the Attorney General to disclose major actions and opinions by the court, unless publicizing such information would harm U.S. national security interests. The development of secret law by a private court poses fundamental challenges to the principles of democracy, and this bill begins to redress these issues.
To read more about H.R. 2475, click here.