In its original version, the USA Freedom Act represented an important step toward ending the government’s bulk collection of data about individuals. Unfortunately, the Rules Committee gutted key provisions resulting in a watered-down bill that passed the House. Unless the Senate significantly strengthens the bill in its deliberations, we’ll be forced to oppose the bill that so many of us previously worked to advance.
Today, TechFreedom, along with several civil liberties, human rights and other public interest organizations, wrote to Senate leaders urging them to make substantial improvements to the USA Freedom Act. These include:
- Definitively ending “bulk” collection: The House-passed bill is overly broad in its definition of “specific selection term,” which could lead to abuses and collection of data on millions of innocent Americans. This definition must be narrowed in order to definitively end and prevent surveillance dragnets.
- Strengthening transparency reporting and other transparency provisions: The original USA FREEDOM Act allowed for detailed transparency reporting by private companies about government demands they receive, and required more detailed transparency reporting by the government. Those provisions were substantially weakened in the version of the bill passed by the House. Those provisions must be re-strengthened to provide much greater transparency into how the government is using its surveillance authorities.
- Strengthen Reforms to the FISA Court (FISC) Process to Provide More Accountability: The House weakened a provision that would create an independent Office of the Special Advocate in the executive branch, responsible for reviewing all FISC applications and related materials, participating in all FISC proceedings, and defending for Americans’ privacy and civil rights. The House also weakened provisions requiring the Attorney General to oversee the public disclosure of FISC opinions. The Senate should restore these important reforms.
– Coalition letter signed by over 40 civil liberties groups earlier this year explaining what real NSA reform should look like.