Last week Congress passed HR 4681, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2105
I’ve pasted the complete text of section 309, which is the section Justin Amash was concerned enough about to require a roll call vote be taken. (Only 59 representatives voted against it. Click here to see what your representative did.)
The section permits acquisition, retention and dissemination of “covered communications” subject to certain “limitations.” The limitations are weak: while the retention period is five years, that can be extended for a variety of vaguely worded reasons (including that the communication is merely encrypted), and accountability is only to legislative intelligence committees. Moreover, these weak limitations don’t even have to go into effect for two more years. That means Obama gets to retain all his toys–unfettered access to our private communications–for the remainder of his term in office. How convenient.
Remember, it’s the third-party doctrine that has put protection of all these communications at the mercy of legislation (if not simply the “pen and phone” of our Chief Executive). The only way to fix this mess is to eliminate the third-party doctrine. Read how here.
SEC. 309. PROCEDURES FOR THE RETENTION OF INCIDENTALLY ACQUIRED COMMUNICATIONS. (a) Definitions.--In this section: (1) Covered communication.--The term ``covered communication'' means any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication, including communications in electronic storage. (2) Head of an element of the intelligence community.--The term ``head of an element of the intelligence community'' means, as appropriate-- (A) the head of an element of the intelligence community; or (B) the head of the department or agency containing such element. (3) United states person.--The term ``United States person'' has the meaning given that term in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801). (b) Procedures for Covered Communications.-- (1) Requirement to adopt.--Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act each head of an element of the intelligence community shall adopt procedures approved by the Attorney General for such element that ensure compliance with the requirements of paragraph (3). (2) Coordination and approval.--The procedures required by paragraph (1) shall be-- (A) prepared in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence; and (B) approved by the Attorney General prior to issuance. (3) Procedures.-- (A) Application.--The procedures required by paragraph (1) shall apply to any intelligence collection activity not otherwise authorized by court order (including an order or certification issued by a court established under subsection (a) or (b) of section 103 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1803)), subpoena, or similar legal process that is reasonably anticipated to result in the acquisition of a covered communication to or from a United States person and shall permit the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of covered communications subject to the limitation in subparagraph (B). (B) Limitation on retention.--A covered communication shall not be retained in excess of 5 years, unless-- (i) the communication has been affirmatively determined, in whole or in part, to constitute foreign intelligence or counterintelligence or is necessary to understand or assess foreign intelligence or counterintelligence; (ii) the communication is reasonably believed to constitute evidence of a crime and is retained by a law enforcement agency; (iii) the communication is enciphered or reasonably believed to have a secret meaning; (iv) all parties to the communication are reasonably believed to be non-United States persons; (v) retention is necessary to protect against an imminent threat to human life, in which case both the nature of the threat and the information to be retained shall be reported to the congressional intelligence committees not later than 30 days after the date such retention is extended under this clause; (vi) retention is necessary for technical assurance or compliance purposes, including a court order or discovery obligation, in which case access to information retained for technical assurance or compliance purposes shall be reported to the congressional intelligence committees on an annual basis; or (vii) retention for a period in excess of 5 years is approved by the head of the element of the intelligence community responsible for such retention, based on a determination that retention is necessary to protect the national security of the United States, in which case the head of such element shall provide to the congressional intelligence committees a written certification describing-- (I) the reasons extended retention is necessary to protect the national security of the United States; (II) the duration for which the head of the element is authorizing retention; (III) the particular information to be retained; and (IV) the measures the element of the intelligence community is taking to protect the privacy interests of United States persons or persons located inside the United States.