Last night, the House of Representatives voted 388-88 to pass the USA Freedom Act, which modifies the USA Patriot Act of 2001 to curtail the National Security Agency’s surveillance capabilities. The highlight of the bill is that it ends the NSA’s bulk telephone records program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and prohibits warrantless bulk collection of other records.
That all sounds good right? But in Washington DC, things are not as simple as they appear on the surface. While the language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection. A number of mass surveillance programs, including ones operating under the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333, are not addressed via this bill.
A vote for a bill that does not end mass surveillance is a vote to continue mass surveillance. For this reason, Golden Frog DOES NOT support the USA Freedom Act. And, we’re not alone. EFF pulled its support for the bill earlier this week. Demand Progress also voiced serious concerns about the bill.
Golden Frog will only support a meaningful NSA reform bill that corrects the numerous tactics the government utilizes to invade Americans’ privacy. This means ending mass surveillance programs purportedly authorized under the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333.
The USA Freedom Act heads to the Senate next week, and we’ll be watching as various amendments are proposed that have the potential to both strengthen and weaken the bill. We will hold out hope that legislation appears that is worthy of our support, legislation that drastically reforms the NSA.