As Feared: House Guts USA Freedom Act, Every Civil Liberties Organization Pulls Their Support

from the tragic dept

As we feared would happen, the House, under pressure from the White House, has completely watered down the USA FREEDOM Act. After a long (and, we’ve heard, contentious) battle among the different players, the bill that’s moving to the floor tomorrow is even less useful than the already weakened version that passed out of both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Following the revelation of the new version of the bill late Tuesday, basically every civil liberties organization pulled their support for the bill.

  • EFF: Since the introduction of the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill that has over 140 cosponsors, Congress has been clear about its intent: ending the mass collection of Americans’ calling records. Many members of Congress, the President’s own review group on NSA activities, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board all agree that the use of Section 215 to collect Americans’ calling records must stop. Earlier today, House Leadership reached an agreement to amend the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act in ways that severely weaken the bill, potentially allowing bulk surveillance of records to continue. The Electronic Frontier Foundation cannot support a bill that doesn’t achieve the goal of ending mass spying. We urge Congress to support uncompromising NSA reform and we look forward to working on the Senate’s bipartisan version of the USA FREEDOM Act.
  • CDT: Today, the Leadership of the House of Representatives gave the green light to an amendment to the USA FREEDOM Act that would significantly weaken the bill’s ban on the government’s bulk collection of data, despite the broader consensus that bulk collection must end. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and other civil liberties groups long supported the USA FREEDOM Act, but have withdrawn their support for the House version of the bill.

    “This legislation was designed to prohibit bulk collection, but has been made so weak that it fails to adequately protect against mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ private information. The bill now offers only mild reform and goes against the overwhelming support for definitively ending bulk collection,” said CDT President and CEO Nuala O’Connor.

  • Open Technology Institute: “House leaders should have allowed a vote on the compromise version of the USA FREEDOM Act that was already agreed to, rather than undermining their own members and caving in to the intelligence community’s demands. We recognize the need for the USA FREEDOM Act to move forward now, in order to avoid a worse bill or no bill at all. However, we cannot in good conscience support this weakened version of the bill, where key reforms — especially those intended to end bulk collection and increase transparency — have been substantially watered down. We’re gravely disappointed that rather than respecting the wishes of the unanimous Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the House leadership and the Obama Administration have chosen to disrupt the hard-fought compromise that so many of us were willing to support just two weeks ago.

    “The original USA FREEDOM Act was a great leap forward on surveillance reform, and the compromise version of two weeks ago was still a big step forward, but today’s version is merely leaning in the right direction. Much of what has been weakened in the House version of USA FREEDOM will have to be restored in the Senate before the privacy and civil liberties community will be willing to support this bill again.”

  • Access: Today, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Rules Committee reported a dramatically different version of the USA FREEDOM Act meant to reform NSA surveillance activities than what was unanimously approved by both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees two weeks ago.

    Yesterday, Access expressed its concern after learning that House leaders and Obama administration met over the weekend to negotiate the bill and commented, “The version we fear could now be negotiated in secret and introduced on the House floor may not move us forward on NSA reform.”

    “It’s greatly disappointing to witness House leaders succumb to the pressure applied by the Obama administration and others, turning its back on the compromise version of USA Freedom that so many supported just two weeks ago. The USA FREEDOM Act had previously passed through two committees before being secretly watered down behind closed doors. Access is forced to withdraw our support of the USA FREEDOM Act,” said Amie Stepanovich, Senior Policy Counsel at Access.

This is unfortunate on many, many levels. I know many who are more cynical will suggest that this was the inevitable end to the process, but that’s not true. A much stronger bill had the opportunity to move forward, but the White House — despite President Obama’s own promises — put pressure on the House to change the bill and significantly weaken it. Basically, the White House has now made it clear that for all its talk about respecting the constitution and civil liberties, when it comes time to actually show real leadership, it won’t do it, and instead will back efforts that make a mockery of basic civil liberties.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: access, cdt, eff, oti

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “As Feared: House Guts USA Freedom Act, Every Civil Liberties Organization Pulls Their Support”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
71 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We already have a freedom act

Because it is treated like toilet paper as we all do nothing about it.

People keep forgetting why Civil Wars get so damn bloody. There is years of angst and hate built up for the other side when the shit goes down. If these things keep up, then anyone in office that even remotely crapped on the Constitution will get a lead sammich.

brightside says:

Re: Re: We already have a freedom act

How does a bill being passed equate to civil war between regions of a nation? You seem quite angry and eager for change. Suggesting armed conflict in our nation under these pretenses is ludicrous. The bill is passed by a minority of those who are rich enough to elect themselves. It isn’t the people that need to fight each other, it is the people that need to realize we can change our nation from the ground up. We can change it through natural selection. Get rid of the bad representatives and elect the new better ones. It seems impossible in this day and age but it is. People just need to open their eyes to their district and spread the word to their people since we are all at war with each other civilly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: what does NSA have on Congress

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. This is exactly what I have been saying and why everyone should fear the mass surveillance. It is not unreasonable to believe that the NSA already has info on government leaders. Soon, if it isn’t already happening, the party in power will be able to use that info against the party that isn’t in power. This will ultimately subvert whatever power the electorate has over the elected because those in control of the NSA will be able to work backroom deals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: what does NSA have on Congress

The only way the NSA can continue to subvet the Constitution.

But every 2 years the House of Representivies is up for re-election, so they, as a whole must be more worried by the opinion poles than could be blackmailed by the NSA.

But Members in the commities had served Multiple Terms, they control what comes up for a vote, they have more history, and possibly better targets for blackmail.

Only a third of the senate is up for election at a time, this group being numerically smaller and having a smaller turnover of members, is also a better target for blackmail.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘A much stronger bill had the opportunity to move forward, but the White House — despite President Obama’s own promises — put pressure on the House to change the bill and significantly weaken it.’

just add this to the list of Obama’s promises that he then tuned round and threw in the faces of the people! of all the head honchos, he must be the worst one for making promises that are immediately ignored or back peddled on once elected! i wonder if the people will be so keen to give out support to the successor?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

For a third term already? I think you just let a fantasy out of the bag!.

What he was referring to is if a far-right republican is elected in 2016, will those who are currently in power on the opposite side still support said right-wing president snooping all their stuff?

It’s the same thing as happened with Bush and Iraq. The very instant Obama was crowned, boom, the entire anti-war movement snapped to attention to support their Dear Leader’s righteous actions to save us from Iraq.

zip says:

Re: Snake Oil Salesman

“just add this to the list of Obama’s promises that he then tuned round and threw in the faces of the people!”

I think most of us could tolerate a president who campaigned on a law-and-order/national-security platform, and then once elected, governs that way. The most infuriating thing about this president is not his policies specifically (which are identical to those of the last president) but the fact that as a candidate he repeatedly promised change on so many levels, and then once elected, flagrantly broke virtually every one of those promises.

Maybe I should at last feel good getting to say “see, I told you so” to many of Obama’s deluded followers who spent years arguing that Obama was only postponing the fulfillment of his campaign promises until the start of his second term, when he would finally be free from the political pressure of getting re-elected.

I’ve never understood why it takes people so long to stop making excuses and finally come to their senses and admit that they’ve been swindled — in this case by a master swindler. With Obama, it’s about finally admitting that not only will he never do what he promised, but that he obviously never intended to from the start.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Snake Oil Salesman

“I’ve never understood why it takes people so long to stop making excuses and finally come to their senses and admit that they’ve been swindled”

For the same reason that people rarely report when they’ve been taken in a confidence game: it would require them to admit that they were idiots.

However, you also have to remember that lots of people who voted for Obama were not actually deluded at all, and his actions are not surprising to them. Also, the people I personally know that were huge Obama believers stopped being that well before the end of his first term. I’m not sure that there’s a huge number of people who were still thrilled by him when he was up for reelection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Snake Oil Salesman

“I think most of us could tolerate a president who campaigned on a law-and-order/national-security platform, and then once elected, governs that way.”

Law & Order is a euphemism for private prison industry.
National Security is a euphemism for spying on everything.
If one were to explicitly say …. awww screw it, that would never happen.

“and then once elected, flagrantly broke virtually every one of those promises.”

and you claim this was premeditated?

” I told you so”

words of the self righteous

Yup no other politician has lied – like ever … lol

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Snake Oil Salesman

“Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.”

The underlying problem is that in a two-party system, you can get away with almost everything you blame your opponent of.

Let’s not make it left vs right, but blue vs purple.

You know that most of the blues will vote for you, as the Blue candidate. You also know most of the purples will vote purple. This is the case no matter what your policies are. (voting districts make this problem much, much worse, btw)

So, if no matter what you do the blue will vote for you anyway, your goal becomes to get the purples to switch. Therefore your focus shall be to get as purple as possible without scaring away the blues. And that is much more purple than most of us would like to admit.

This is why you see politicians act much different than they campaign. Reagan had a more left-wing health reform in mind than Obama enacted. Obama cheerfully campaigned for transparency, but nearly all of his actions resulted in less of it. The list is probably infinite.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Snake Oil Salesman

“Let’s not make it left vs right, but blue vs purple.”

But this still falls into the trap of putting everything in terms of a spectrum from left to right — you’re just saying that within that spectrum, the focus should be in the middle.

I maintain that the spectrum itself is artificial and specifically designed to maintain the status quo and keep us plebes fighting with each other.

We need to stop thinking in left vs right terms, and stop framing everything that way.

stanchaz says:

America, America.....

Beware of ANYTHING with Orwellian names such as the Patriot Act or the USA Freedom Act. it’s a dead giveaway: hide the silverware!
How did we as a country end up this ugly, reactionary place?
Three decades ago the US mocked and ridiculed repressive regimes that resorted to imprisonment and incessant spying of their own citizens.
But now, we are numero uno in terms of surveillance and incarceration of our very own Citizens. Not to mention Attorney Generals and administration lawyers who crafted elaborate excuses for torture and indefinite detention without trial, for the drone killing of Citizens without due process, and the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of all communications.
We’ve always had “enemies” and wars and assassinations and difficulties and dangers. And despite all that, and despite Joe McCarthy, despite the Palmer Raids, despite Richard Nixon, despite J. Edgar Hoover …we’ve always rebounded and maintained our core values and freedoms nonetheless.
Until now.
For the real target and the real victimof an open-ended indefinite war on “terrorism” has been our own liberty and our own values –that which has made us unique and strong and a beacon to so many
—-If we allow it.
Edward Snowden is a true patriot and hero. May we have many more to follow in his footsteps.
Amendment IV:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall NOT be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
What part of “NOT” don’t you understand, N.S.A.?
The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of RIGHTS
isn’t encrypted, guys, …hey- it’s not even in code!
Is it sooooooo difficult to understand, and to follow, dear N.S.A.?
Perhaps we need new lyrics to an old tune
America, America….
God shed his tears for thee,
And bring back our liberty,
from sea to shining sea.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMJ2VDTQWSI
http://www.democracynow.org/2014/5/13/collect_it_all_glenn_greenwald_on
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/united-states-of-secrets/
http://video.pbs.org/video/2365250130/

Anonymous Coward says:

A much stronger bill had the opportunity to move forward, but the White House — despite President Obama’s own promises — put pressure on the House to change the bill and significantly weaken it.

This is barely on topic, but has the “Obama bin Laden” joke been made yet? Because at this point I think it’s safe to say that the Obama administration qualifies as a terrorist organization.

Tice with a J (profile) says:

Shameless plug for "Cult of the Presidency"

This kind of betrayal by the executive branch is nothing new, nor is Congress’s failure to do anything about it. Gene Healy laid out the problem rather nicely in his book:

http://www.cato.org/cult-of-the-presidency

I don’t always see eye to eye with the Cato Institute, but I really admire what they put together in that book.

Frost (profile) says:

Well, it's not that easy

The NSA probably has a lot on the President after all the data collecting these several past years, so it probably can’t be easy for him to accept if, say, the NSA threatens to publish nude photos, drug smoking or some compromising pictures of him with the hookers and such if he didn’t derail this act… oh well, joking aside, how do we know what the NSA is and is not doing? With the massive info they have gathered, do we really believe the politicians are immune to blackmail of threats?

Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

NSA has long known Obama was their man

“… despite President Obama’s own promises …”

Is there anyone left who still pays attention to what Obama says as opposed to keeping track of what he actually does? Or, if they do, who gives an ounce of credence to anything he promises?* I can’t think of another politician where the schism between the talk and the walk has been so extreme (although my pseudo-progressive Democratic state legislative delegation comes close).

According to NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, the NSA tapped Obama’s phones after he made the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. They either found out he was a pseudo-progressive Trojan Horse harboring a corporatist neoliberal hawk and/or they collected enough lethal personal, political, and legal blackmail material on him to ensure that he would do their (and their plutocratic principals’) bidding for life. My money’s on both.

*See, e.g., Politifact’s Obameter: Campaign Promises that are Promise Broken, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/rulings/promise-broken/

Ernest Guindon says:

There may be a deeper reason: U.S. is corporation

Karen Hudes, World Bank Whistleblower, has some very informative youtube interviews. She reports the World Bank is sitting on one million metric tons of GOLD, and that belongs to we the people. Literally. She and other diligent brilliant people are working hard to inform us about essential changes which must be made. Meanwhile she reports upwards of 42 state legislatures have called for a U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION which is essential to bring back our democracy. Our constitutional government was usurped by a second secret constitution in 1871 which gave power to the bankers and formed the U.S. as a corporation. This is what must be overturned. We will regain our government and our right to live.

Anonymous Coward says:

I found a great quote from Edward Snowden.

“The shock of this initial period [after the first revelations] will provide the support needed to build a more equal internet, but this will not work to the advantage of the average person unless science outpaces law. By understanding the mechanisms through which our privacy is violated, we can win here. We can guarantee for all people equal protection against unreasonable search through universal laws, but only if the technical community is willing to face the threat and commit to implementing over-engineered solutions. In the end, we must enforce a principle whereby the only way the powerful may enjoy privacy is when it is the same kind shared by the ordinary: one enforced by the laws of nature, rather than the policies of man.”

-Edward Snowden
https://blog.ageispolis.net/snowden-cryptoparty/

I think this quote sums up what just happened to the USA Freedom Act. This quote is from Snowden back in 2012 when he hosted a Crypto Party in Hawaii. He accurately predicted that politics and laws would fail to provide humanity with the fundamental human right to secure and private communication.

The gutting of the USA Freedom Act only enforces this view, and reaffirms that secure and private communications can only happen through technological means, rather than through the “policies of man”.

Governments will never concede their power and authority to mass surveil entire populations. Never!

GEMont (profile) says:

“Basically, the White House has now made it clear that for all its talk about respecting the constitution and civil liberties, when it comes time to actually show real leadership, it won’t do it, and instead will back efforts that make a mockery of basic civil liberties.”

For the Love of Mike!

And Obama actually had to shit on your shoe before you realized he was a fucking liar!! All the years of his constant bullshit just never added up before eh!

No wonder the powers that be have no respect for the public.

Its a brainless mob of day dreaming children, pretending that bad things only happen to bad people, while ignoring the daily bum-fuck they get from their Government.

I have to agree with the government on this.

The public truly deserves no respect at all.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If someone says “look how blue the sky is” do you wonder why this is the first time they ever noticed the sky is blue?

Call me thick, but could ye clarify that comment a tad.
Not sure I’m getting what yer sending.

If someone says “look how blue the sky is”, I usually look to see what shade of blue has captured that person’s attention. I’ve seen dozens of shades of blue, dozens of shades of grey, and even a couple shades of yellow-green just before a big storm.

It would never occur to me to wonder why this is the first time they ever noticed the sky is blue.

If the sky was a particularly common shade of blue, I might wonder if the person looks at the sky very often, but I cannot even imagine anyone old enough to speak, who has never looked at the sky when it was blue.

Its probably just the shitty mood I’m in right now, but I’m afraid the comment just does not compute.

Anonymous Coward says:

The reason obama got re-elected was because his opponent was bat-$#!* crazy, turbo elitist, and would have gutted the country financially. (*cough* Bain capital what?) Given Romney’s business “stance” & widely publicised history, is it so hard to believe that Bain would have somehow saddled the treasury dept with billions of debt in loans or something along those lines?

Had there been a level-headed reasonable human being competing in his place, then there would have actually been a contest for the election.

We’re just trying to choose the lesser of two evils here…

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When you want to fix a (s)election so that only one candidate has any chance of winning, the easiest way to insure that outcome is to field only whack-jobs and loonies as competing candidates.

Since the Republican Fascists knew their chances of putting someone known to be a Republican in office was utterly nil after Dubya Bush’s reign, it behooved them to run a ringer – a Republican in Democratic Clothing and to choose a black man to insure a vote count could be fudged, and then field only their looniest candidates against the ringer.

Sure it helps to have minions employed in the vote-counting and vote-losing groups in case the public actually casts votes for one of the morons instead of the “chosen one”, but essentially, given no other choice, the public will dutifully select the only possible choice you provided, giving you a nice verifiable vote count that needs very little in the way of “repairs”.

Next president will likely be a woman because running the black man up the flagpole worked so perfectly. Should there have been any discrepancy noticed with the Obama Selection, the PowersThatBe would have simply claimed that the vote tally was due to all the blacks voting him into office.

That won’t work twice, so they’ll likely field a women next and claim the vote count was due to all the ladies voting her in, should things go south and the public starts asking questions.

Mind you, considering how dense the American public has become, the next POTUS should indeed be a Madame President, and likely one that nobody expected to run for the office, just the way Obama was selected. May even be a Black Woman.

As long as the American Public believes the vote system still works, the Madison Avenue selectors of POTUS will keep on running these gimmicks to keep the public placated, while their chosen one rewrites the laws to make corporate profiteering easier and more fun.

GEMont (profile) says:

Aha!

Gotcha.

And Obama actually had to shit on your shoe before you realized he was a fucking liar!!

This is the part that ruffled your feathers.
It does not state that Obama lies.
Everyone lies, and often.
It states he is a “liar” and by this I mean professionally.

All the years of his constant bullshit just never added up before eh!

This is the part you had difficulty understanding, or ignored, whatever.

Its not about the fact that Obama lies. As I said above, everyone lies about some things.

Its that Obama is a professional liar, paid to lie and does so every time he opens his mouth, for money.

It is this that I doubt that people understand, or will let themselves believe, no matter how often Obama “shits on their shoes”.

On the other hand, “For the love of Mike” was a mistake on my part.

It was not intended to suggest a direct response to anyone named Mike, however, I can see how that might have been assumed by a reader. It is simply an expression used in place of “for the love of god”, which is a term I dislike using.

nasch says:

Re: Re:

This is the part you had difficulty understanding, or ignored, whatever

No, that’s the part I was specifically replying to. “All the years of his constant bullshit just never added up before eh!” This indicates to me that you think this is the first time the author (or someone) noticed the bullshit. Maybe that isn’t what you meant, but that’s how it came across.

GEMont (profile) says:

For the love of someone other than Mike.

“Basically, the White House has now made it clear that for all its talk about respecting the constitution and civil liberties, when it comes time to actually show real leadership, it won’t do it, and instead will back efforts that make a mockery of basic civil liberties.”

For the Love of Pete!

What does it take to make you people understand that Obama is a professional liar, who was hired by Corporate America to sweet talk the public into mass-slumber while the crooks who hired him rob you all blind? Must the man shit on the shoes of every individual in America separately?

No wonder the powers that be have no respect for the public.

Its a brainless mob of day dreaming children, pretending that bad things only happen to bad people, while ignoring the daily bum-fuck they get from their Government.

I have to agree with the government on this.

The public truly deserves no respect at all.

Better??

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...