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Surveillance Oversight and Disclosure Act (SODA)
 

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HIPAA


Surveillance Oversight and Disclosure Act (SODA)


Privacy Hero of the Month:
SODA overseers

In an era of rapidly accumulating usurpations of privacy by the federal government, the checks and balances of the constitutional system set up by the nation's founders should play an increasingly important role. One group of Congressmen is trying to check up on the new surveillance state by exercising some oversight over the executive powers granted by the PATRIOT Act and other legislation. Their would-be vehicle to do so is called The Surveillance Oversight and Disclosure Act (SODA).

SODA, introduced by Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel and cosponsored by 20 other legislators, would require the Justice Department to report to Congress in greater detail on the secret warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the previous year. As it stands, Justice need only report how many surveillance orders were issued by the FISA court.

Under SODA, Justice would have to break down the figures and tell legislators and the public how many FISA orders were issued in each of four categories -- electronic surveillance, physical searches, e-mail pen registers [like caller ID], and access to records. The report would also have to specify how many times information from FISA warants were used in court proceedings.
<http://www.hoeffel.house.gov/issues2.cfm?id=6151>

SODA would also require a twice-annual report to Congress' intelligence committees on all requests made for records from public or school libraries. Another report would detail procedures and changes thereto used in the secret FISA court proceedings.

Similar legislation is in play in the US Senate.

Attorney General Ashcroft is now calling for a sequel to the PATRIOT Act, which itself expanded use of secret FISA warrants. A draft of such legislation was leaked during the winter (at the time, Ashcroft ham-handedly denied to Congress such a sequel was in the works). Among the many power grabs are a number of new surveillance powers and creation of federal databases (not to mention granting the Executive branch the ability to unilaterally strip Americans of their citizenship).


Americans, including Congress, simply do not have the kind of information to evaluate whether givng the feds such a ridiculous amount of additional surveillance powers is warranted. Vastly increased oversight efforts by Hoeffel, his co-sponsors and others in Congress such as Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner are necessary so that lawmakers can first reconsider the sweeping new surveillance granted the feds by PATRIOT I, much less the radical proposals of PATRIOT II. All of those fighting for such considered oversight shoiuld be considered this month's Privacy Hero.

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By James Plummer

The Privacy Villain of the Week and Privacy Hero of the Month are projects of the National Consumer Coalition's Privacy Group. Privacy Villain audio features now available from FCF News on Demand. For more information on the NCC Privacy Group, see www.nccprivacy.org or contact James Plummer at 202-467-5809.