Additionally, he will press for provisions to relax the gag orders that bar companies from publicizing the extent of the information they share with the government under FISA orders. Some tech companies, most notably Google and Microsoft, have been seeking authorizations to make more detailed FISA disclosures associated with the NSA's PRISM program, in part to counter the notion that the government has been able to open a back door to obtain unlimited data from their corporate servers.
Blumenthal is planning to bring forward legislation that would revamp the proceedings at the FISA court, introducing a security-cleared attorney to push back against the government's requests for new data-collection authorizations. The idea, he explains, is to make the FISA court arguments more adversarial, bringing them in line with the norms of regular judicial proceedings.
"The basic idea is that judges are accustomed to hearing two sides of an argument," Blumenthal says.
The new legislation follows a bipartisan bill recently introduced by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would provide for more oversight and narrow the authorities the NSA and FBI operate under in their data-collection and surveillance activities. Leahy, who will sign on as a cosponsor of Franken's bill, expressed concern at the lack of candor about the programs from some members of the intelligence community, including James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who in testimony before the Judiciary Committee in March said that the NSA does not intentionally collect wholesale information on hundreds of millions of Americans. Three months later, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's phone-data and PRISM programs came to light.
"We need straightforward answers. I'm concerned we're not getting them," Leahy says.
Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for CIO.com. Follow Kenneth on Twitter @kecorb. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.
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