On May 22, 2014, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 3361, a bill aimed at limiting the federal government’s ability to collect bulk phone records and increasing transparency regarding decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”). The bill was approved by a vote of 323-121 by majorities of both Democrat and Republican members of the United States House of Representatives. It now moves to the Senate where it is likely to pass.
The bill is designed to prohibit the bulk collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency, but if it becomes law, the federal government still would have access to individuals’ phone records. Such access would require the government to use a “specific selection term” to narrow its collection to phone records that are relevant to a particular investigation.
In addition, the bill would revise the procedures governing the FISC. The bill would require the FISC to appoint an individual with “privacy or civil liberties, intelligence collection, telecommunications” expertise to serve as amicus curiae, to assist the court with novel or significant interpretations of law. The bill also would require the government to determine whether it should declassify prior FISC opinions.
Finally, the bill also extends certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that are scheduled to expire in 2015.