Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Senate bill faulted as a boost to data harvesting

WASHINGTON — Privacy advocates and at least one U.S. senator are expressing concern that legislation introduced last week would not only endorse the National Security Agency's collection of all Americans' phone records, but also give the agency permission to collect massive amounts of their email records.

The bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which advanced out of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would codify limits that a special court has placed on the NSA's use of the records.

But if the measure became law, Congress would be validating expansive powers that have been claimed by the NSA and upheld by a court — but never explicitly written into statute — to harvest the phone and email records of millions of Americans, the privacy advocates say.

The bill "would expressly authorize this bulk collection for the first time, and that would be a huge step backward for the rights of law-abiding Americans," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of four committee members who voted against moving the bill.

Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who co-sponsored the 45-page bill with Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has said that the phone records program is legal and that while they want to place some limits on it, she will do "everything I can" to prevent it from being halted.

Committee staff disputed the critics' contention that the bill would authorize harvesting of email metadata. That includes the to and from lines, date and time stamp and file size.

The NSA in 2011 halted a program to gather email metadata in bulk because it was not operationally useful, officials have said. Nonetheless, Wyden and others said, they fear that codifying the authority could renew efforts to harvest such data.

Wyden and privacy advocates are also concerned that the bill would place in statute authority for the NSA to search without a warrant for Americans' email and phone call content collected under a separate FISA surveillance program intended to target foreigners overseas. That is what Wyden has called a "back-door search loophole."

Committee aides note the bill restricts the queries to those meant to obtain foreign intelligence information. They say that there have been only a small number of queries each year. Such searches are useful, for instance, if a tip arises that a terrorist group is plotting to kill or kidnap an American, officials have said.

Nonetheless, the bill's language, privacy advocates said, leaves room for the FISA court, which oversees the NSA's domestic surveillance, to interpret it expansively. They point as precedent to the recent revelation that the court, which operates in secret, had authorized the sweeping phone records collection based on what they say is an elastic reading of a statute.

That statute — also known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act — requires that the records sought be "relevant" to an authorized foreign terrorism investigation. The FISA court interpreted "relevant" to include all call logs held by U.S. phone companies, enabling the NSA's amassing of billions of domestic phone records.

"The court accepted the NSA's argument that all of the records qualified as relevant because a tiny fraction of them might prove to be relevant in the future," said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program. "It turned what was supposed to be a limiting principle into a license to cast a dragnet."

Comments
Stephan Jiggetts’ 20 points lead USF basketball over Bethune-Cookman

Stephan Jiggetts’ 20 points lead USF basketball over Bethune-Cookman

TAMPA — USF used a 21-3 run midway through the second half en route to an 83-63 win over Bethune-Cookman on Thursday night before an announced 2,091 at the Sun Dome.The victory halted a four-game losing streak for the Bulls (5-6)."We got defensive st...
Updated: 1 hour ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

TAMPA — Police are seeking a "person of interest" who they believe has information about a Dec. 3 drive-by shooting that killed a 22-year-old man.Police are searching for Anan Motilal, 25. He stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs 180 pounds. He may have ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., Dec. 14, midday:97 796 8399e_SRit63724Thurs., Dec. 14, evening:37 731 1382e_SRit63276LottoWed., ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pinellas Park officer stuns middle school student with Taser

PINELLAS PARK — A school resource officer stunned a middle school student with a Taser while trying to break up a fight between her and another female student on Thursday, police said.Neither the Pinellas Park officer nor the students involved in the...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Updated: 2 hours ago