This bill — known as the USA RIGHTS Act — would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits intelligence agencies’ collection of electronic communications by non-U.S. persons outside of the U.S. for national security purposes, for four years through 2021. It would make permanent the current ban on the collection of “about” communication regarding a target permanent, prohibit the collection of domestic communications, require a warrant for all searches of Section 702 data, and make reforms to improve oversight and transparency. Additionally, it would prohibit the use of Americans’ data collected under Section 702 in any criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding except for crimes directly related to national security, like terrorism and espionage.
The bill would prohibit “back door searches” of Section 702 for communications of or about a U.S. person or a person inside the U.S. without a warrant. The prohibition wouldn’t apply in case of life-threatening emergencies, or when the target of the query has consented to the query based on an emergency that’s followed by a court order.
The bill would prevent “reverse targeting” of Americans by requiring a warrant whenever a significant purpose of the targeting of foreign persons is to collect the communications of someone in the U.S. Currently no warrant is required unless the sole purpose of the surveillance is to collect the American’s communications.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) would be required to seek the assistance of an amicus curiae (an impartial advisor to the court) when reviewing applications for warrants to search Section 702. Amici curiae would be authorized to raise any issue with the FISC at any time, and would have to be notified when new amici are designated so that they can coordinate their reviews and input.
Opinions issued by FISC regarding significant interpretations of law or statutory language would have to be declassified as required by the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015. Currently the Justice Department has only declassified such opinions if they occurred after the bill’s enactment.
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) would be required each year to provide statistics on the number of persons targeted under each Section 702 certification, along with an estimate of the number of U.S. persons whose communications were collected. An exception to this requirement would be permitted if DNI determines that such an estimate would be technically impossible and publishes an unclassified explanation of that finding.