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.
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Filed Under: jim sensenbrenner, nsa, patrick leahy, surveillance, usa freedom act


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 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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