USA Freedom Act Passes Senate Without Amendment

As I expected, the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act by a 67-32 vote on Tuesday, after initially voting it down. They were forced to do so because the House was not going to budge on the matter and it was the only way they could keep Section 215 of the Patriot Act in place while accepting minor but important limitations on the government’s data mining.

The U.S. Senate passed a government surveillance reform bill Tuesday that will limit the National Security Agency’s dragnet phone surveillance program first illuminated by Edward Snowden.

“This is the most important surveillance reform bill since 1978, and its passage is an indication that Americans are no longer willing to give the intelligence agencies a blank check,” Jameel Jaffer, American Civil liberties Union deputy legal director said in a news release.

“Still, no one should mistake this bill for comprehensive reform…The passage of this bill is an indication that comprehensive reform is possible, but it is not comprehensive reform in itself.”

The Senate’s 67-32 vote to passed the USA Freedom Act without changes that previously sailed through the House of Representatives comes two days after the some controversial sections of the Patriot Act expired, forcing the NSA to begin shutting down its telephony metadata program.

The bill, which now awaits the president’s signature, will end the NSA’s current phone records collection program where telecommunications companies deliver bulk packets of data to the agency. Instead, those companies such as Verizon and AT&T, which keep call data for billing purposes, will continue to hold onto the information and respond to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)-approved requests.

I think Jaffer gets it exactly right. This is an important safeguard, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the real reform that is necessary. But it is the first time since 9/11 that Congress put any limitations at all on what the government can do to spy on people, which is a positive development and probably the best we could realistically hope for under the circumstances.

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  • dingojack

    “The bill, which now awaits the president’s signature, will end the NSA’s overt current phone records collection program where telecommunications companies deliver bulk packets of data to the agency.”

    Fixed it for them. :(

    Dingo

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    But imagine all the plots Osama bin Laden got away with in those few days the American government temporarily lost a small part of their ability to spy on Americans!!! Thanks, Obama!!!*

     

    * Lindsey Graham/Chicken Little, 2016

  • http://www.facebook.com/hmoulding Helge

    I like that the NSA is supposed to go back to relying on specific data requests, rather than having access to everything to analyze for patterns and whatnot. I would have no problem with mass data collection and pattern analysis, provided the courts ruled that the resulting information is by itself insufficient to establish probable cause for a law enforcement action.

    But the current SCOTUS has been unwilling to move even an inch into that direction. They want to be able to go after “bad guys” on the flimsiest of pretexts.

  • grumpyoldfart

    I’ve just been reading about the USA torture of Muslim prisoners, cash and property confiscations by USA sheriffs, and USA police who shoot unarmed citizens in the back and get away with it – and now I see you’ve got a USA Freedom Act! What a funny old bunch you are over there.

  • StevoR

    I think Jaffer gets it exactly right. This is an important safeguard, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the real reform that is necessary. But it is the first time since 9/11 that Congress put any limitations at all on what the government can do to spy on people, which is a positive development and probably the best we could realistically hope for under the circumstances.

    Agreed.

    Off topic but link here for Holms who has a problem xie really needs to think about and address here among others who may be interested to my response (#41) on a thread from a day or three ago :

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2015/05/31/ultra-orthodox-jewish-sect-bans-women-from-driving/#comment-428215

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    This is an important safeguard

    The fuck it is. The 4th Amendment was an important safeguard. And look what they’ve done to it.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    But it is the first time since 9/11 that Congress put any limitations at all on what the government can do to spy on people,

    The crucial point being that Yardley’s Black Chamber, then the FBI, then NSA and CIA consistently ignored the limitations that were always in place. Lacking generous re-interpretation of the 4th, they simply violated the constitution as they saw fit. Now that the Overton Window has been jammed open, bombed, strafed, and ploughed with salt – oh, yeah: “limitations”

    You have no fucking idea. Snowden’s stuff is the tip of the iceberg. The kabuki theater around “metadata” is just a bit of “watch the birdie” misdirection.

    Let’s try this: how many of you know that the USPS provides all package shipping info to the FBI? And, bank transactions. Not “bank transactions over $10,000” – all bank transactions. The search criteria look at total transaction size (as you can tell from Congressman weaselbreath’s bust) over time. That means it all goes into the hopper and they have redefined “search” to mean “human eyeballs look at” and “metadata” to mean “what we extract from the complete message that we actually have” and “collect” to mean “what we actually look at of the complete message that we already have” because none of this shit works at all if you don’t have retrospective access to a cached copy of the full data.

    They are lying lyitty fucking liars and their pants are so on fire you could kindle fusion at that temperature.