The mainstream media has been celebrating the USA Freedom Act this week as it passed the House and went on to the Senate.
The New York Times proclaimed the “House Votes to End N.S.A.’s Bulk Phone Data Collection.” However, while the USA Today celebrated it as the overwhelmingly bipartisan “House passes bill to end NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone data,” critics were many.
Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) was one of the first to explain why he voted no on the USA Freedom Act: the bill does too little to prevent abuse of American’s civil liberties.
You will read all sorts of stories and headlines about how the latest USA FREEDOM Act ends “bulk” collection. It doesn’t. In fact, the bill expressly authorizes, for the first time, the NSA, FBI, and other government agencies to unconstitutionally collect data in bulk on potentially millions of law-abiding Americans.
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) issued a statement on why he voted no on the USA Freedom Act, saying
While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans.
These sentiments were echoed by Glenn Greenwald:
Today’s vote is a symbolic step in the right direction. But…… https://t.co/FQbHMvrf2J
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 13, 2015
However, the rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that it is still possible to press the Senate to strengthen the civil liberties provisions of the USA Freedom Act before it’s sent to President Obama’s desk.
The bill is now sent over to the Senate, where all eyes will be watching. The Senate is expected to take up the USA Freedom Act anytime in the next two weeks and is likely to vote on it by May 22. The Senate is uniquely positioned to improve the civil liberties protections in the USA Freedom Act by adding additional transparency and oversight provisions, adding stronger limitations on the collection of data on innocent people, and throwing out some of the recently-added provisions to the bill that were included at the behest of the intelligence community.
The EFF is urging the public to take action to ensure this civil rights-destroying language is dropped before this bill becomes law.