Coalition urges congressional leaders to support NSA curbs

A coalition of more than 70 advocacy groups, trade associations and tech companies wrote to congressional leaders Thursday, encouraging them to support the surveillance-limiting USA Freedom Act.

The letter — sent to the Senate and House majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — urges members to support reforms that would increase transparency and privacy protections for intelligence programs.

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Signatories of the letter include Reddit, Dropbox, Mozilla, Hewlett-Packard, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Specifically, the letter asks recipients to support reforms that would require more transparency from the government on surveillance programs, allow companies to publish more information about the government requests for user data they receive, focus surveillance on terrorists and spies, and ensure surveillance programs “honor both Constitutional and human rights.”

“Toward this end, we welcome introduction in the House and Senate of the USA Freedom Act — legislation which promotes these goals,” the coalition said.

The group also said it opposes “legislation that codifies sweeping bulk collection activities.”

Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill from Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would alter, but not eliminate, the bulk surveillance programs. Feinstein was a recipient of Thursday’s letter.

“Civil society and tech companies have come together to strongly oppose bulk collection of private communications metadata, and to urge the government to honor constitutional and human rights,” Greg Nojeim, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Freedom, Security and Technology, said in a statement.

“The USA Freedom Act would go a long way toward realizing necessary reforms,” he said.