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.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , , ,

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 “House Passes Fake USA Freedom Act; Fight Turns To The Senate To Fix A Broken Bill”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
gorehound (profile) says:

The way things are going here and in other Nations too it is going to take a massive French Revolution #2 to straighten things out.
This Nation is fucked !!! Nothing at all like it was before……….and I do remember as far back as the 60’s .It was a lot better here then than it ever will be now.

What do we get:
1.GOP doing the most horrible things and saying the most horrible things.Stuff like common core ed will turn your kids gay , etc. GOP are full of whackjob extremists and low intelligent morons.

2.And what do we get from Dems……..more people friendly which is a plus but with all the good they do they also have a dark side and that is MONEY.They take money and as much as they can.

3.Meanwhil we sit thru the umpteenth time of Benghazi…………Obamacare……….NO JOBS………..cut aid……… not cut aid………..anti LGBT………nothing is getting done.

4.Things are falling apart.Roads, Bridges, Infra-structure…all tied up in a Gov that will not work together.

5.Meanwhile in Civilian Land we just all get the shaft.One way or the other we end up being the ones who constantly get fucked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“2.And what do we get from Dems……..more people friendly which is a plus but with all the good they do they also have a dark side and that is MONEY.They take money and as much as they can.”

Not sure the that group that will not have discourse, calls anyone that disagrees homophobic, fundies, closed minded, intolerant and out right ad hominem attacks as nice or nicer people. I may be a centris libertarian with clear conservative leanings, it is no mistake… far more bigotry comes from dems than any other other party in the USA. The only thing I have seen a dem do, is sucker people like you into voting for them by promising to steal from the rich and give “barely” to the poor. It ridiculous that people are so fooled by them but sweet words… are the sweet words. Sweet on taste but bitter in the belly… its why most dems are hateful and miserable.

The French are very liberal yet the world hates them more than anyone else on the planet for being supremely stuck up. Yea… a great party and people to call nice. Whatever.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: getting all violent won’t solve the problem, it’ll just create new problems.

We’re in this mess because most of us don’t think for ourselves, we choose either Red team or Blue team, no matter what, because we’re afraid that one of them will win if we go with any other team. This presupposes that we’d never get enough votes to get a third party in. We actually would if enough people could agree on which third party to vote for.

The trouble with most of the fringe parties is that they’re breakaways from the Red or Blue teams. We need to get out of that mindset, stat. We have more options than that.

Start building awareness of the other parties now so people are primed and ready to vote for them in 2016. And let’s have no more talk of violence, please. Only the most violent would win such a fight, and that would leave the wild-eyed extremists in charge. No thanks.

Tice with a J (profile) says:

When something is wrong, something is too big

And once again, centralized power and Public Choice screw us all over.

BHL recently had a nice post on the difficulties of limiting government power. I think it is relevant here:

Unfortunately, neither they nor I have a solution to this dilemma. Does anyone have any idea what to do?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: When something is wrong, something is too big

If you believe in violence, then start stockpiling ammunition. Lay the groundwork for a command and control network the government can’t touch. Then wait for a flashpoint with enough popular support. One will come soon enough. It used to be that only the complete nut jobs and criminals would join an anti-government crusade. Now people who are not quite as crazy are willing to do it. Soon enough people will be willing to stand up to the government to make a difference. It’s kind of sad that the government has worked so hard to prove the anti-government loonies right.

Don’t try to warn the government that their course of action could cause the people to rebel. That would likely be considered a terrorist threat.

If, like me, you don’t believe in violence, start now. Encourage everyone to vote, but not for one of the two major parties. It doesn’t matter who they vote for, write in Mickey Mouse if they want. If enough people vote for the “fringe,” then the mainstream politicians will have to take notice. There is no guarantee that they will do the right thing, but it’s likely they will do something.

On top of that, start working to make it harder for the government to do surveillance. Set up a TOR relay or exit node. Develop and deploy better encryption technologies. Start looking into building wireless mesh networks that don’t depend on the current internet to communicate. Every little bit counts.

Anonymous Coward says:

…due to pressure from the White House and NSA’s supporters in Congress…

This is why every time I hear some petition for the White House and the POTUS to do something about NSA spying I laugh. No one seems to think of where all this crap is originating and getting it’s approval from.

None of the incumbents in Washington seem to have a problem with throwing money at problems to find solutions instead of actually looking at the means to solving that before attempting to make a law. But when it comes to funding the programs like the VA for wounded vets or Medicare or Social Security they are quite happy to claim those benefits you’ve paid taxes for all your working life need to be cut.

The main reason Social Security is in the bind it is in is because during the Johnson presidency they took the money from Social Security, the last place that wasn’t full of red ink and dumped it in the general fund to spend. It’s still going on today with the idea that future politicians would not let it go broke. Only today you got everyone up there throwing money at things like those idiot body scanners for airports, wasting it as fast as they can throw it. After all it isn’t their money, it’s yours.

This won’t continue as the US is bankrupt from rampant spending. It’s being propped up so it doesn’t look so bad today but the end is coming when it can no longer be hid. That’s not going to be pretty. Pitchforks are in the future of this country I’m afraid.

Anonymous Coward says:

well that’s unusual! having discussions IN SECRET to change a law that fucks no one except the public!

out of curiosity, why can nothing be done to Conyers for making false claims about the bill and who was involved in the ‘secret meeting’ making the changes? whoever they were and i hope all names come out, they should be made to pay at the ballot box, if nowhere else!

Lurker Keith says:


Accountability regulations shouldn’t allow those they are intended to regulate in on the discussion when the regulation is necessary due to lies. When “the least untruthful answer” is the best you get from someone, nothing they say should count for anything.

Letting them shape the regulation in any way guts the accountability.

Whatever says:


That was put in at the last minute, with help from the White House.

First off,the White House itself has no vote and no direct means by which to change legislation. Those changes have to be brought by members of the house and voted on by those members. 303 to to 121 shows a wide, bi-partisan support base for the bill as passed, nothing along party lines. That generally means that it’s not a White House thing, it’s a more general thing. Perhaps the White House pushed for certain things, but it’s doubtful that Obama has much sway over Republican members.

I also think that this is a case of better something than nothing, the original bill as tabled likely would not have passed out of the house as was. The nature of politics is to find the common ground and agreement which represents the will of all of the people, and not just the loud 1% at each end of the argument. Most of the polls I have seen away from the internet (ie, polls without online vote stuffing) generally show that the US public accepts much of what the NSA has been doing, under the guise of protecting America. They may be deluded and misinformed, but that is where the public is at. The house is unlikely to want to pass laws that go directly against the will of the people.

Like it or not, there is a need for much of what the NSA is doing. We no longer have the luxury of just sitting back and reacting to whatever happens, those who oppose the US are way to willing to kill and maim innocent people to get their way.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”

-James Madison, Constitutional Convention (1787-06-29)

It amazes me how much wisdom and foresight the Founding Fathers of the United States, displayed 227 years ago.

It’s almost like they could peer into the future and predict what is currently going on with the erosion of freedom and civil liberties. All in the name of expanding the Executive Branch’s authority to wage war on a bunch of rag-tag Islamic militants, who have no tanks, bomber jets, aircraft carriers, or submarines.

To assert that Americans need to surrender a huge portion of their freedoms, or risk these rag-tag militants destroying our entire civilization, is absurd. The only thing destroying the American way of life is the instruments of tyranny being deployed against populations around the globe. Instruments in the form of mass, un-targeted, surveillance.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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...