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by Alicia Freese June 24, 2013 vtdigger.org Senator Patrick Leahy interrupted the immigration debate on the Senate floor Monday to unveil his solution to civil liberties concerns that have been stoked by the recent leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs.Leahy, joined by four Democrats and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced a bill to rein in the government’s surveillance authority. The FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 reprocesses some of the Vermont senator’s previous attempts to add privacy protections in the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act (FAA).Leahy told fellow lawmakers ‘the American people also deserve to know whether these programs have proven sufficiently effective to justify their extraordinary breadth.’Vermont’s senior senator also reminded senators that they had quashed his previous attempts ‘to apply stricter oversight over these sweeping authorities.’He described his latest attempt as a handful of ‘commonsense, practical improvements that will ensure that the broad and powerful surveillance tools being used by the government are subject to appropriate limitations, transparency, and oversight.’Leahy’s legislation touches on Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which have been at the center of the public debate after National Intelligence Director James Clapper identified them as the source of the Obama administration’s authority for the two data collection programs.His bill expedites the sunset provision of the FISA Amendments Act, moving it up from December 2017 to June 2015. That coincides with the date that key provisions of the Patriot Act are due to expire, which, Leahy said, would allow Congress to review surveillance provisions ‘all at once, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.’It also amends Section 215 of the Patriot Act to require the government show that records, in addition to being relevant to an authorized investigation, are also linked to a foreign terrorist group or foreign power. It also increases judicial review of this section.The legislation goes beyond the nucleus of the NSA scandal, addressing an issue that’s been at the periphery of the privacy debate. It puts a June 2015 sunset on the government’s ability to dole out ‘National Security Letters.’The letters, delivered primarily by the FBI, are mandatory requests for information that are accompanied by gag orders preventing the recipient from telling anyone about it. And, in the meantime, the bill requires the government to obtain a court order before enforcing a gag order, eliminates the mandatory one-year waiting period before someone can challenge a gag order, and asks for a public report on National Security Letters.‘When you have these kinds of gag orders on Americans you are going into very dangerous territory,’Leahy said.The bill also requires the Inspector General to report on whether the government is using the relevant sections of the Patriot Act and the FAA in a proper way, and it makes sure the annual review of Section 702, which is already required, covers all of the relevant government agencies.Leahy is one of the first lawmakers to offer a legislative ‘as opposed to a verbal ‘response to the uproar sparked by the revelations that the government has been amassing billions of phone and Internet records of American citizens. The bill on Monday is actually Leahy’s second NSA scandal-inspired proposal ‘on June 11, he introduced legislation requiring the secret court that authorizes NSA data gathering to declassify major legal opinions.Vermont’s other senator has also penned a piece of legislative response to the surveillance leaks. Sen Bernie Sanders’bill takes a more aggressive approach with Section 215 than Leahy’s does. It would put a definitive stop to indiscriminate metadata collection. Sanders’legislative solution would amend the Patriot Act to require the government to supply specific evidence that shows it has reasonable suspicion that records are tied to an identified terrorist suspect before it can start monitoring them.Sanders’bill also requires the attorney general to give reports to all of Congress, rather than restricting that information to the intelligence and judiciary committees.The full text of the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 can be found here.