The new guidelines would put a stop to bulk data collection by the government. So, for example, a large-scale, indiscriminate collection of all phone records from a state, city, or zip code would not be allowed. Under current law, bulk collection is authorized by Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the FISA pen register authority, and national security letter statutes. Bulk collection of phone records (the phone numbers, length of calls etc.) from domestic and international calls made in the U.S. would also be prohibited without a direct order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
If passed, this bill would allow companies — like Internet providers — to challenge national security letter gag orders. Basically if an agency like the FBI requests information from a company, and doesn’t want that request disclosed to the public, companies would have a new process to challenge the gag order. The exception to challenging a gag order would be that disclosing the request for information could be a danger to national security or interfere with an investigation.
A loophole that previously prevented the government from tracking suspected foreign terrorists when they enter the U.S. would be closed. If passed, the government would be authorized under this bill to track a suspected terrorist for 72 hours. The hope is that this window will give federal investigators time to get a legal authorization to track the suspect.
The statutory maximum prison sentence for supporting a designated foreign terrorist organization would be increased to 20 years. International investigations of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation would be enhanced.
The newly-reformed PATRIOT Act would be authorized until December 15, 2019 when it would either sunset or be reauthorized.