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  • EPIC, Coalition Oppose NSA Data Transfer Plan: EPIC and over 30 organizations have urged the Obama Administration to halt proposed changes to Executive Order 12333 that would permit the NSA to transfer raw data collected to law enforcement agencies. The NSA’s vast data collection activities are traditionally limited to intelligence purposes. The proposal will permit use of NSA data by law enforcement and make personal data more widely available across the federal government. Last year, EPIC urged the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to increase oversight of 12333.  EPIC called for: (1) new limits on data collection and disclosure; (2) audit trails for surveillance activities; and (3) published legal justifications for surveillance programs. The Board is currently reviewing surveillance under EO 12333. (Apr. 8, 2016)
  • Ninth Circuit Sends NSA Surveillance Case Back to Lower Court: A Federal Appeals court has remanded a case challenging the NSA's bulk collection of telephone records. In Smith v. Obama, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals instructed the lower court to consider the impact of the USA Freedom Act, which ended the bulk data collection program. EPIC, joined by thirty-three technical experts and legal scholars, filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that modern communications systems are "entirely unlike the telephone network of the 1970s" and that a 1977 case concerning "pen registers" no longer applied. EPIC also challenged the NSA bulk collection program in a petition to the Supreme Court. (Mar. 24, 2016)
  • NSA to Disclose Agency Records to Other Federal Agencies, Implicating Federal Privacy Act: According to the New York Times, the NSA plans to disclose intercepted private communications to other federal agencies, including records of communications concerning US persons. The substantial change in agency practices "would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email." In 2013, EPIC and a group of legal scholars and technical experts, petitioned the NSA to undertake a public rule making on "the agency's monitoring and collection of communications traffic within the United States." EPIC has previously urged the Department of Defense to ensure that the NSA complies with the federal Privacy Act and has opposed expansion of the "Operations Records" database. (Feb. 26, 2016)
  • Freedom Act Goes Into Effect, NSA Bulk Data Collection Ends: The Director of National Intelligence has announced that the NSA's bulk collection of domestic telephone records under "Section 215" ended yesterday when the USA Freedom Act took effect. The Freedom Act ended the NSA's 215 Program and established new transparency and accountability rules for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2012, EPIC testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reform the Surveillance Court. In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the NSA surveillance program. (Nov. 30, 2015)
  • EPIC Opposes NSA Plan to Expand Operations Database, Demands Privacy Act Compliance: EPIC submitted comments to the NSA objecting to the agency's proposal to expand its "Operations Records" database. This database is already largely exempt from Privacy Act safeguards, and the proposal would vastly expand the types of information collected in the database and define new routine uses for this information. EPIC's comments addressed the privacy issues raised by the Operations Records database and NSA's proposed changes, opposed further expansion of NSA's information collection activities, and demanded that NSA narrow the Privacy Act exemptions for the system if the proposal goes forward. EPIC has previously urged NSA to conduct information collection activities in compliance with the Privacy Act. (Nov. 23, 2015)
  • Court Suspends NSA Phone Record Collection Program : A federal court in Washington D.C. has ordered the National Security Administration to halt the bulk collection of domestic telephone records, ruling that the indiscriminate collection violates the Fourth Amendment. Following the USA Freedom Act, the telephone records program will expire at the end of the month. The government has moved to stay the judge's order. In 2013, EPIC brought the first challenge to the NSA surveillance program in the Supreme Court. EPIC has also testified before Congress on the need to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and led a broad coalition urging the President to end the NSA surveillance program. (Nov. 10, 2015)
  • Privacy Groups Urge Ninth Circuit to Find NSA Metadata Program Illegal: EPIC and other privacy groups have filed a friend of the court brief in United States v. Moalin, the first criminal case challenging the NSA's warrantless surveillance of Americans' telephone records. The lower court refused to reopen the case after it was revealed that data acquired by the NSA provided the primary evidence for the criminal conviction. EPIC and other groups argued in their brief that metadata is protected under the Fourth Amendment. EPIC previously argued in Smith v. Obama that "changes in technology and the Supreme Court's recent decision in Riley v. California favor a new legal rule that recognizes the privacy interest inherent in modern communications records." In In re EPIC, EPIC petitioned the Supreme Court to end the NSA's bulk telephone record collection program, which occurred with passage of the USA Freedom Act. (Nov. 5, 2015)
  • EPIC Joins Call for Transparency on Number of Americans Caught in NSA Surveillance: EPIC, joined by over 30 other organizations, urged the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, to disclose data on how many Americans are caught up in NSA surveillance of foreign targets. Americans’ communications are incidentally collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the FBI searches this data without a warrant or judicial oversight. EPIC, in testimony before Congress and comments to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has repeatedly called for greater oversight and transparency of surveillance authorities. (Nov. 2, 2015)
  • D.C. Circuit Reverses Important NSA Surveillance Ruling, Sends the Case Back to Lower Court: A divided panel of the D.C. Circuit has reversed a lower court decision that the NSA bulk metadata collection program violated the Fourth Amendment. The judges in Klayman v. Obama agreed that the plaintiff did not have sufficient evidence that his telephone records were collected. But the majority of the panel agreed that the plaintiff should be allowed to conduct "discovery" to prove standing, and remanded the case to the lower court. In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the NSA surveillance program. (Aug. 29, 2015)
  • Intelligence Director Says NSA Access to Bulk Phone Record Data Will End: The Director of National Intelligence announced today that the NSA analysis of "section 215" telephone records previously gathered will end when the USA FREEDOM Act goes into effect on November 29, 2015. Earlier this month, the U.S. Surveillance Court ruled that the NSA could continue collecting records during a 180 day transition period, despite an earlier decision finding the program was unlawful. In 2012, EPIC testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reform the Surveillance Court. In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the NSA surveillance program. (Jul. 27, 2015)

Background

On the evening of June 5, 2013, The Guardian began publishing stories based on internal government documents disclosed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. The first story published by The Guardian described the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, which has since been the subject of numerous lawsuits, government reports, and surveillance reform proposals. Under the Bulk Metadata Program, authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Verizon and other major telephone companies were ordered to turn over all telephone call detail records (including the numbers dialed and received, the time, duration, and other identifying information) to the NSA on an ongoing basis.

The second story, published by the Washington Post, described the NSA’s collection of Internet communications directly from major service providers including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Apple, Skype, and AOL. The documents released also described the NSA’s “upstream collection” activity, which involves collecting digital communications directly from the fiber optic facilities that transfer Internet traffic.

Subsequent stories published by The Guardian and the Washington Post have revealed the scope of NSA surveillance activities, including “the capability of recording ‘100 percent’ of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and replay conversations as long as a month after they take place.” The stories also revealed that the NSA has collected millions of Internet address books or “buddy lists,” and has infiltrated the private links between Google and Yahoo! data centers. Both The Guardian and the Washington Post received Pulitzer Prizes in 2014 for their coverage of the NSA story.

As a result of the Snowden revelations, Congress has conducted both public and classified hearings, and has considered reform proposals aimed at ending the bulk collection, increasing transparency, and improving the FISA Court process. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has also released thousands of pages of formerly classified documents, and created a public website to provide ongoing updates and transparency reports. Even the FISA Court, which formerly had no public presence, has created a publicly available website and docket.

Edward Snowden is one of the 2014 recipients of EPIC’s Champion of Freedom Award

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EPIC Champion of Freedom Awards Dinner 2016

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National Press Club
Washington, DC
June 6, 2016

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