House Passes Fake USA Freedom Act; Fight Turns To The Senate To Fix A Broken Bill
from the losing-hope dept
As explained earlier, due to pressure from the White House and NSA’s supporters in Congress, what could have been real NSA reform was completely changed at the last minute, in secret. The bill, which was substantially different than what both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees unanimously approved, went to a floor vote and passed 303 to 121. It seems notable that many of the no votes were from people who felt the bill didn’t do enough to protect the public from the surveillance state, rather than NSA fanboys worried about reform. Basically, the NSA and its supporters hijacked the reform process and got a bill they wanted, rather than one that actually protects the American public.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who was the original sponsor of the bill admitted that he was disappointed in what his bill eventually turned into — though he still voted for it:
“Let me be clear: I wish this bill did more,” Sensenbrenner said during floor debate Thursday. “To my colleagues who lament the changes, I agree with you. The privacy groups who are upset about lost provisions, I share your disappointment.”
There had been some hope that Rep. John Conyers might flip his vote and vote against it, but he not only voted for it, he falsely claimed that this bill would “end domestic bulk collection across the board.” It does nothing of the sort. The folks who really understood this stuff were much more direct in saying what a bad bill this is. Last night, I had a chance to speak to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who still hoped that there was a chance her colleagues would recognize how the bill had been changed in secret, and how problematic that was — and she tried to fight the good fight on the floor this morning telling her colleagues (unlike what Conyers claimed) that this “is a bill that will actually not end bulk collection, regrettably.” Furthermore, she tried to remind people that this was not the bill that was voted out of committee, to highlight the last minute changes.
Unfortunately, those who aren’t paying close attention don’t seem to care. They just want to be able to go back to their districts and claim they did something to “reform” the NSA, when they could have done much more. But this bill doesn’t do that. As Lofgren noted on the floor: “If we leave any ambiguity at all, we have learned that the intelligence community will drive a truck through that ambiguity.” And this bill leaves in a ton of ambiguity. On purpose. That was put in at the last minute, with help from the White House.
Either way, the fight now shifts over to the Senate, who will have to approve their own version. Senator Leahy has a version of the bill, but he will face fierce opposition from Senator Feinstein, and the support for reform in the Senate has always been weaker than in the House anyway. Still, some hope that a strong enough public outcry may pressure the Senate into at least something better than the House version.