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Schatz signs onto privacy legislation


U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has announced he will co-sponsor the FISA Court Reform Act of 2013. This bill will reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (collectively, the FISA courts), which reviews the Federal government’s surveillance requests.

The bill will create an independent Special Advocate tasked with protecting privacy rights of the citizenry, increase access for interested parties in the FISA Court of Review while respecting national security confidentiality, and require that the Attorney General increase disclosure of legal interpretations coming from FISA courts.

“The right to privacy is one of our country’s most valued democratic rights, and I am committed to making sure government does not encroach on that right,” Schatz said. “I opposed reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it failed to provide transparency, accountability, and reasonable limits on surveillance. With this bill, we will begin to make this process more transparent, and have the opportunity to reinvigorate trust and confidence in our country’s respect for privacy and civil liberties.”

Specifically, the FISA Court Reform Act of 2013 would:

* Create an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with advocating in the FISA courts’ closed proceedings for legal interpretations that minimize the scope of intrusion into our privacy. The OSA will have the authority to appeal decisions of the FISA courts, and would be staffed by attorneys who are properly cleared to view the classified information considered by the FISA courts and bound by the same confidentiality requirements as the courts’ staff and government officials.

* Allow interested parties to participate as amici, in cases involving significant or novel issues of law, most of which will be considered before the Foreign Surveillance Court of Review. Proceedings of the FISA courts would remain secret to protect national security, but the FISA courts would have the advantage of the insights and advocacy of outside experts and organizations.

* Require the Attorney General to disclose past and future significant legal interpretations of the FISA courts and empower the OSA to petition the FISA courts for expanded or modified disclosures that are consistent with valid national security concerns.

The FISA Court Reform Act of 2013 was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and is co-sponsored by Sens. Schatz (D-H.I.), Murray (D-Wash.), Coons (D-Del.), Franken (D-Minn.), Gillibrand (N.Y.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Tester (D-Mont.), M. Udall (D-Col.), T. Udall (D-N.M.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Markey (D-Mass.).

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