Bipartisan Bill Would Allow Surveillance Request Disclosures

Lofgren, Caffetz Want to Make Info on FISA RFIs Public

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jason Caffetz (R-Utah) have introduced a bill that would allow communications companies to provide estimates of how many government requests for information -- including phone records and emails -- they receive under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) and via national security letters, as well estimates of how many customers would be affected.

Companies are currently not allowed to disclose that basic information, the lawmakers pointed out in introducing the bill.

The bill would also relieve telecoms of liability for releasing information they believe the bill authorizes; that would be a key provision for buy-in by Internet service providers and others.

"It’s clear we need to provide greater transparency to the public and allow Internet and telecommunications companies to preserve global confidence in their services," Lofgren said. "This bill is a much-needed step in allowing Internet companies to publicly provide information on how many surveillance orders they receive and how many of their users are affected."

In addition to authorizing estimates of requests and users/accounts affected, the bill includes the following parameters:

•     The reports may include the number of users affected by requests that carry over though multiple reporting periods;

•     The numbers reported may be in a range of 100, rounded to the nearest 100s (i.e., 1-100, 100-200, etc.);

•     The reports may be made quarterly or in larger time periods (i.e., annually, semi-annually, etc.);

•     Service providers are not subject to criminal or civil liability for making reports they reasonably believe are authorized by the bill; and

•     The bill does not prohibit other disclosures authorized by law.