Wednesday, June 3, 2015

USA FREEDOM Act: Meet the new law, same as the old law

USA FREEDOM Act: Small step for post-Snowden reform, giant leap for Congress - Dan Froomkin, The Intercept:

June 2, 2015 - "Exactly two years after journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras traveled to Hong Kong to meet an NSA [National Security Agency] whistleblower named Edward Snowden, Congress has finally brought itself to reform one surveillance program out of the multitude he revealed — a program so blatantly out of line that its end was a foregone conclusion as soon as it was exposed.

"The USA Freedom Act passed the House in an overwhelming, bipartisan vote three weeks ago. After hardliner Republicans lost a prolonged game of legislative chicken, the Senate gave its approval Tuesday afternoon as well, by a 67 to 32 margin. The bill officially ends 14 years of unprecedented bulk collection of domestic phone records by the NSA, replacing it with a program that requires the government to make specific requests to the phone companies....

"At the same time, the Freedom Act explicitly reauthorizes — or, rather, reinstates, since they technically expired at midnight May 31 — other programs involving the collection of business records that the Bush and Obama administrations claimed were authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. In fact, even the bulk collection of phone records, which was abruptly wound down last week in anticipation of a possible expiration, may wind up again, because the Freedom Act allows it to continue for a six-month transition period.

"And while the Freedom Act contains a few other modest reform provisions‚ such as more disclosure and a public advocate for the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, it does absolutely nothing to restrain the vast majority of the intrusive surveillance revealed by Snowden.

"It leaves untouched formerly secret programs the NSA says are authorized under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, and that while ostensibly targeted at foreigners nonetheless collect vast amounts of American communications. It won’t in any way limit the agency’s mass surveillance of non-American communications."

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