NSA domestic surveillance debate returns to Congress with 'Ending Mass Collection of Americans’ Phone Records Act'

PHOTO: NSA

“It’s time, finally, to put a stake in the heart of this unnecessary government surveillance program and start to restore some of Americans’ liberties,” Wyden said in a statement.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19th District), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI 3rd District), and Sen, Ron Wyden (D-OR) are introducing a bill to “finally abolish the last vestige of the NSA's post-9/11 domestic bulk phone records surveillance,” writes Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast.

The bipartisan legislation introduced today would permanently end the domestic metadata collection program, as awareness of the operational challenges and civil rights implications grows.

Senators Rand Paul and Ron Wyden sponsored the legislation. A companion version was introduced Wednesday in the House by congressional representatives Justin Amash and Zoe Lofgren.

The 'Ending Mass Collection of Americans’ Phone Records Act', as it's called, removes all remaining authority for NSA and FBI to collect phone records in the United States, “other than those identified by the specific selection term included in [a warrant] application.”

From Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast.

In particular, the bill would kill off what’s called the Call Detail Records program under an effort to restrict the domestic phone-data dragnet in the wake of Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations. Before the so-called USA FREEDOM Act became law in 2015, some civil libertarians warned that its privacy protections, watered down by intelligence officials and their allies, would prove inadequate. They turned out to be prescient: the FREEDOM Act led to an overcollection of call data so massive that the NSA announced last it was deleting the entire FREEDOM Act trove, which included some 685 million phone records.

The failure of the USA FREEDOM Act was significant enough that the Trump administration “actually hasn’t been using it for the past six months,” a national-security aide to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told the Lawfare podcast earlier this month.

That apparent shutdown prompted speculation in surveillance-policy circles that the NSA might have either migrated its domestic phone-data dragnets under authorities outside of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – something the NSA has repeatedly done with its post-9/11 warrantless surveillance efforts – or shut down the collection out of an assessment that analyzing call patterns at scale is an outmoded form of counterterrorism surveillance.