What The USA FREEDOM Act Doesn't Fix

from the lots-more-to-go dept

We've discussed the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced in the Senate by Senator Leahy and in the House by Rep. Sensenbrenner a few times now, pointing out that it really does look to rein in the worst of the NSA's abuses. It also has the best chance of any proposal to date of getting passed. That doesn't mean the bill is perfect, and it has plenty of problems. The good folks over at EFF have given some conditional support to the bill, noting that it "would be a substantial improvement to America’s laws regarding mass surveillance" and does a bunch of very important things in response to the overreach by the US government.

However, the group notes, the bill should be a "floor, not a ceiling." That is, it needs to be a starting point, because there are all sorts of problems it doesn't yet fix.

The bill only addresses a small portion of the problems created by NSA spying and overreaching government secrecy. It does not touch problems like NSA programs to sabotage encryption standards, it does not effectively tackle the issue of collecting information on people outside of the United States, and it doesn't address the authority that the government is supposedly using to tap the data links between service provider data centers, such as those owned by Google and Yahoo.

The bill also does not address a key issue that the government uses to inhibit lawsuits contesting the spying: excessive secrecy. For instance, it won't deal with the major over-classification issues or the state secrets privilege, the latter of which is used aggressively to prevent litigation from getting to a court decision on whether the spying is unconstitutional. The bill also leaves out a clause appearing in Sen. Ron Wyden's bill, which provides guidelines to obtain standing in legal cases against the spying.

Lastly, it does not hold public officials accountable for their role in allowing this spying to take place and hiding it from public and Congressional oversight, and it does not create a Congressional committee that could independently investigate the surveillance programs and give the country a full accounting. Remember we are still just learning the full depth of the programs on a piecemeal basis.

I know that some people would prefer bills that do in fact cover all of that, and are against the USA FREEDOM Act for not going nearly far enough. There is, also, quite a legitimate fear that there is likely to only be appetite for one bill in Congress, so if the USA FREEDOM Act passes, all of the other missed issues will never get addressed. That's a legitimate fear, but it's going to be difficult enough to get the USA FREEDOM Act approved in the first place, and if people fight against it just because it doesn't include everything, there's a decent chance we'll get nothing at all.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2013 @ 2:20pm

    The Surveillance State Repeal Act still seems like the best one by far, since it gives US the opportunity to restart all the mass surveillance laws from scratch (by getting rid of them).

    That bill I don't know which is called, by Wyden, Udall and Rand Paul, also seemed much better than the USA Freedom Act, but still not perfect.

    Rush Holt's bill still MUST pass, before anyone even begins to have faith in the US government and US companies again:

    http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th/house-bill/2818

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 19th, 2013 @ 3:36pm

    The "good folks over at EFF" are only a click away, so why re-publish here?

    You truly have nothing that others haven't made, Mike. You not only want grifters such as Kim Dotcom to get money off other's products, but are a second-hander personally.

    In any case, "nothing at all" is better than fake legislation that won't change de facto operations.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2013 @ 6:10pm

    And....

    We still lose.

    I have learned over history & my life that a Free People will willingly give up that freedom.

    Th 4th already protected us. I was not aware that Congress had the power to abolish or amend it without 3/4ths of the states. Since we have laws that trample the 2nd without batting an eye and an entire industry (TSA) that SHITS on the 4th every fraction of a second lets just go ahead and scrap the rest.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2013 @ 7:50pm

    Like the saying goes, "a thousand km journey starts with the first step", or "baby steps", or "one foot at a time".

    Here is a thought, I saw some people complaining about how people don't like to engage in politics and there are very few people who actually do and they tend to be on the opposite side of issues. Well most people don't because most people don't know how, give them a place where they can expose ideas and be exposed to them and "vote" by adopting text as their own and they probably will engage more and be more informed, what is lacking is type of GitHub for law making merged with statistics. A place where you see the wording of the law and actually why is worded that way, so people start understanding how laws evolve.

    If this was to be a database how would it look like?

    Law -> effect desired -> negative points -> positive points -> how courts have ruled on the issue -> how we would like that courts ruled on the issue -> how law enforcement acts on the issues -> how we would like law enforcement to act on the issues -> arguments in favor -> counter arguments -> arguments against it -> counter arguments -> Government agencies that deal with the issue -> expending -> People in favor of it -> expending -> People against it -> expending -> institutions against it - expending -> institutions in favor of it -> expending.

    Wow the number of fields goes on and on and on but people can get an idea.

    The only tool available for change is voting, people say that we must "vote" and "engage", but to get to that point we need a public debate of the issues to take place and a way to see who disagrees and who don't and how much support there is for such things, without that is like shooting in the dark you never know if something will hit anything.

    We need IT tools to get everyone on the same page in a virtual government made up of everyone, once you know what is hot or not, what is easy or not we all can start voting the worms out, is not just congress that is a problem is the people that support congress the public agencies responsible for collecting and reporting are being manipulated those are not elected officials they are appointed and right now the public can't see what happens there, we don't know who is running the show, not in an easy way anyways.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 20th, 2013 @ 10:13am

      Re:

      "a thousand km journey starts with the first step"


      You forgot to convert your units. It should be "A journey of 1609.34 km begins with a single step."

       

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    anonymouse (profile), Nov 19th, 2013 @ 8:41pm

    laws vs. constitutional provision

    i'm still not clear why we need more laws when the gov't seems to be in opposition to the constitution currently. how will an imperfect law which addresses only a portion of the problem be a help? is it only because there isn't any recourse against agencies transgressing the limits of the constitution?

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Nov 20th, 2013 @ 12:11am

    "One step at a time I can walk around the world." -Lord Aral Vorkosigan

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 12:44am

    hey come on! we are supposed to be grateful for this being offered! it isn't meant to fix much, only appear to be doing so! the NSA like all other agencies have to be allowed to continue. in fact, Congress wants them to continue. if they didn't, they would have pulled the plug when they had the chance and cancelled the funding!!
    yes, it should be a floor, but it will be the height of the reining in, not just the ceiling!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 4:46am

    Even this is too much. I mean, think of all the terrorist plots the FBI could then create without anyone noticing!

     

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    The Real Michael, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 6:58am

    It's a sad state of affairs when federal agencies with little-to-no oversight present the greatest threat to freedom.

     

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    anon, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 8:33am

    How can you take a politician seriously when they use the word 'freedom' everywhere yet even russia is better at being free.
    Seems like the only thing they have to do is throw the words freedom, democracy and terrorism at the people and noone will stand against them.
    You guys are ridiculous.

     

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    slider, Nov 20th, 2013 @ 4:14pm

    Surveillance State

    O.K. when was their a time the a country, state or goverment
    not spy on it's own people? Good Queen Bess had Walsingham,
    J Edger Hoover spied on americans for decades.
    All of a suddden this long term and entrenched behavior is a
    problem? Like it was not happening before the last news cycle.
    1984 was a fictioa,ization of what already was and wat it could grow into
    Repeat after me "I am a thought criminal."

     

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