Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota and Nevada Republican Dean Heller have jointly re-introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to increase transparency of government surveillance of U.S. citizens.
They introduced the legislation in the summer. The expanded version is aimed at improving government reporting of programs that have been subject to recent controversy and giving people information to decide whether the government is considering national security and privacy issues.
“The American public is naturally suspicious of executive power and when things are done secretly, they tend to think that power is being abused,” Franken said.
Under current law, he said, the public can’t get even the most basic information about government surveillance programs.
“That needs to change,” he said.
The bill would require disclosure of how many Americans are having their data and information collected.
Heller said the practice of “bulk data collection” should be eliminated. But the legislation at least takes steps to increase transparency in programs under the National Security Agency, he said. Private companies subpoenaed for information should be able to share that with their customers, Heller added.
Both said it’s a bipartisan issue that Franken, as chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, can hold hearings on.
The legislation is a response to the concerns of more than 60 leading Internet companies and advocacy groups that want more disclosure and the ability to release information about the data the government is seeking, Franken said.