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Government Collection of Private Information

Government Collection of Private Information

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Published by Chuck Achberger
Government Collection of Private Information: Background and Issues Related to the USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

Anna C. Henning, Coordinator Legislative Attorney Elizabeth B. Bazan Legislative Attorney Charles Doyle Senior Specialist in American Public Law Edward C. Liu Legislative Attorney March 2, 2010

Government Collection of Private Information

Summary

Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The mostcontroversial sections of the act facilitate the federal government’s collection of moreinformation, from a greater number of sources, than had previously been authorized in criminal orforeign intelligence investigations. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), theElectronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the national security letter (NSL) statuteswere all bolstered. With the changes came greater access to records showing an individual’sspending and communication patterns as well as increased authority to intercept e-mail andtelephone conversations and to search homes and businesses. In some cases, evidentiary standardsrequired to obtain court approval for the collection of information were lowered. Otherapproaches included expanding the scope of information subject to search, adding flexibility tothe methods by which information could be collected, and broadening the purposes for whichinformation may be sought.
Government Collection of Private Information: Background and Issues Related to the USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

Anna C. Henning, Coordinator Legislative Attorney Elizabeth B. Bazan Legislative Attorney Charles Doyle Senior Specialist in American Public Law Edward C. Liu Legislative Attorney March 2, 2010

Government Collection of Private Information

Summary

Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The mostcontroversial sections of the act facilitate the federal government’s collection of moreinformation, from a greater number of sources, than had previously been authorized in criminal orforeign intelligence investigations. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), theElectronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the national security letter (NSL) statuteswere all bolstered. With the changes came greater access to records showing an individual’sspending and communication patterns as well as increased authority to intercept e-mail andtelephone conversations and to search homes and businesses. In some cases, evidentiary standardsrequired to obtain court approval for the collection of information were lowered. Otherapproaches included expanding the scope of information subject to search, adding flexibility tothe methods by which information could be collected, and broadening the purposes for whichinformation may be sought.

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Published by: Chuck Achberger on Jun 20, 2011
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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Government Collection of PrivateInformation: Background and Issues Relatedto the USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization
Anna C. Henning, Coordinator
Legislative Attorney
Elizabeth B. Bazan
Legislative Attorney
Charles Doyle
Senior Specialist in American Public Law
Edward C. Liu
Legislative AttorneyMarch 2, 2010
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govR40980
 
Government Collection of Private InformationCongressional Research Service
Summary
Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act soon
 
after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The mostcontroversial sections of the act facilitate the federal government’s collection of moreinformation, from a greater number of sources, than had previously been authorized in criminal orforeign intelligence investigations. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), theElectronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the national security letter (NSL) statuteswere all bolstered. With the changes came greater access to records showing an individual’sspending and communication patterns as well as increased authority to intercept e-mail andtelephone conversations and to search homes and businesses. In some cases, evidentiary standardsrequired to obtain court approval for the collection of information were lowered. Otherapproaches included expanding the scope of information subject to search, adding flexibility tothe methods by which information could be collected, and broadening the purposes for whichinformation may be sought.Some perceived the changes as necessary to unearth terrorist cells and update investigativeauthorities to respond to the new technologies and characteristics of ever-shifting threats. Othersargued that authorities granted by the USA PATRIOT Act and subsequent measures couldunnecessarily undermine constitutional rights over time. In response to such concerns, sunsetprovisions were established for many of the changes.Subsequent measures made most of the USA PATRIOT Act changes permanent. However, threeauthorities affecting the collection of foreign intelligence information are set to expire onFebruary 28, 2011: the lone wolf, roving wiretap, and business record sections of FISA. The 111
th
 Congress replaced an earlier expiration date with the 2011 date. Before that change was made, theimpending expiration prompted legislative proposals which revisit changes made by the USAPATRIOT Act and related measures. Two such bills—the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset ExtensionAct of 2009 (S. 1692) and the USA PATRIOT Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3845)—werereported from their respective judiciary committees.In addition to the expiring provisions, these and other bills introduced during the 111
th
Congress(e.g., S. 1686, S. 1725, S. 1726, S. 2336, H.R. 1800, H.R. 3846, H.R. 3969, and H.R. 4005)address a range of issues, including national security letters, minimization requirements,nondisclosure requirements (gag orders), interception of international communications, andretroactive repeal of communication provider immunity for Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP)assistance. This report surveys the legal environment in which the legislative proposals arise.
 
Government Collection of Private InformationCongressional Research Service
Contents
Introduction................................................................................................................................1
 
Constitutional Limitations...........................................................................................................2
 
Fourth Amendment...............................................................................................................2
 
First Amendment..................................................................................................................3
 
History of Congressional Action..................................................................................................4
 
Statutory Framework...................................................................................................................6
 
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Subpoena Authorities.............................................6
 
Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)...................................................................7
 
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)........................................................................8
 
National Security Letter Statutes.........................................................................................10
 
Changes Made by the USA PATRIOT Act and Subsequent Measures........................................11
 
Lowering of the Wall Between Criminal Investigations and Foreign IntelligenceGathering.........................................................................................................................11
 
Expansion of Persons Subject to Investigation.....................................................................12
 
Expansion of Electronic Surveillance Authorities................................................................13
 
Expansion of Authorities to Conduct Physical Searches.......................................................14
 
Expansion of Authorities for Pen Registers and Trap and Trace Devices..............................14
 
Expanded Access to Records and Other Tangible Things.....................................................15
 
National Security Letters...............................................................................................15
 
FISA Orders for Business Records and Other Tangible Things.......................................16
 
New Statutory Authority to Conduct “Sneak and Peek” Searches.........................................17
 
Judicial Oversight and Minimization Procedures.......................................................................18
 
Congressional Oversight.....................................................................................................18
 
Judicial Oversight...............................................................................................................19
 
Minimization Procedures....................................................................................................20
 
Related Matters.........................................................................................................................21
 
Nexus Between Intelligence Gathering and Federal Criminal Statutes.................................22
 
Aftermath of the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP).......................................................24
 
Retroactive Immunity for Telecommunications Providers..............................................25
 
Provisions Expiring in 2012..........................................................................................26
 
Conclusion................................................................................................................................26
 
Contacts
Author Contact Information......................................................................................................27
 

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