Techdirt is on holiday this Thursday and Friday. We'll be back with our regular posts on the weekend!Hide

Looks Like 'Compromise' Has Been Reached On NSA Reform Bills

from the and-that-may-not-be-a-good-thing dept

On Monday, we noted that two different competing NSA reform bills had started lurching forward in Congress, though in looking through the Manager's Amendment of the "good" bill, it quickly became clear that it had been very watered down, such that it really wasn't that "good" any more. Late last night, there was a report coming out that the NSA's number one defender, Rep. Mike Rogers, was actually much happier with the USA Freedom Act. In other words, it had been watered down so much that even Mike Rogers was willing to say it was a good bill.
In a dramatic change of tone, Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, praised a bill in the House Judiciary Committee that would sharply curb the National Security Agency's surveillance powers. His remarks suggest that the powerful lawmaker may be more willing to vote for tougher reforms than previously anticipated.

Rogers and other national security hawks have spent weeks arguing that the USA Freedom Act, the most aggressive NSA reform bill under consideration in Congress, would remove tools that the government needs to track phone calls by foreign terrorists. Rogers, a staunch NSA supporter, is the sponsor of another bill that would codify many of the surveillance practices opposed by privacy advocates, such as the dragnet collection of records.
As we speak, the House markup on the bill is ongoing. However, in a twist, tomorrow's "competing" markup for the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act -- which is Rogers and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger's "competing" bill -- has now added a markup of the USA Freedom Act to the agenda. That means that a deal has been made, and if Rogers is willing to add USA Freedom to his committee's schedule, it means that the "deal" is one that favors the NSA and not the public.

That is not to say that the USA Freedom Act does nothing. It actually does a few things to limit the NSA, but really does not tackle the largest problems. There was a lot of good stuff in the earlier version of the bill (which still didn't go far enough on its own) and now it's significantly weaker. So, rather than fixing the overall mess, the new USA Freedom Act makes some small fixes while leaving all sorts of problems.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:10am

    Any bill that passes is going to do nothing except legitimize the current abuses and the supreme court will continue to refuse to hear any cases on point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Michael, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:15am

    I'm pretty sure the mark-up is going to change the wording to make sure everything the NSA is doing is completely legal without having to change their practices and they are going to rename it to the "NSA Freedom Act".

    I wonder how the DOJ is going to secretly interpret this one?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 7th, 2014 @ 11:16am

    Yeah, no

    If Rogers is for it, that pretty much means the bill is going to be completely and utterly useless at reigning in the NSA, and in fact is quite likely written in such a way that it expands or legitimizes their powers.

    At this point the best outcome would be for both bills to be killed off, and to start the process over again, hopefully this time with those involved showing some spine, and pushing back against the NSA, rather than letting them re-write the bill to their liking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:20am


    They can pass whatever they want. The NSA has shown how crooked it is and will continue to do whatever it wants with the backing of criminals like Rogers.

    They will continue to interpret a red light as kind of off-green so therefore they can continue thru the intersection.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:40am

    What's the "deal"?

    I wonder if the deal was that they codified Roger's insane theory about how your privacy can't be invaded if you don't know about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:43am

    I wonder if Congress planned all along to introduce the USA Freedom Act as a strong privacy bill. Getting the EFF, ACLU, and the public to support it. Then quietly weaken the bill right before it goes up for vote. Hoping the public wouldn't notice the changes and still throw their support behind it, because the EFF and ACLU said it was a good bill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Michael, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:53am


    Why would you wonder that? Isn't that their standard operating procedure for all new bills?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    silverscarcat (profile), May 7th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Well then...

    Time to call our reps and tell them to vote against both bills because they need to be killed for not doing anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Chris Brand, May 7th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    Patent reform all over again

    Remember when Congress fixed patents ? Except that by the time they passed the bill it didn't actually do anything. Seems we'll have to wait another couple of years to see Congress come back to actually fix the NSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 1:28pm

    who were the good guys in markup?

    I can't get the stream to work. My rep is on that committee. He's been relatively quiet about the NSA since the Snowden stuff came out. But in the past he has seemed interested in the cyber security bills. I'd like to know if he where he stood in this meeting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 1:34pm

    The fix is in and by the support thrown at it from the NSA reps, it isn't anything in there to really do the effective job that this bill set out to do. Therefor it is a dud and not worth the time spent on it from the House.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 1:48pm

    Unless the 'compromise' is the NSA is required to get a warrant on a *specific individual* and have it approved by the FISA rather than bulk collection of everyone's information, it's horse shit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    KoD (profile), May 7th, 2014 @ 1:55pm

    Certainly it must be painfully clear to anyone marginally aware of this whole debacle, that no meaningful reform will come from Congress. It is up to us to rebuild our beloved internet from the ground up, in such a way that makes it prohibitively expensive for NSA or anyone else to surveil us.
    But that is the beauty of the age of the Internet. We can do that. We can take the power right out of the hands of our malevolent overlords.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    FM Hilton, May 7th, 2014 @ 4:18pm

    What did you expect?

    Ah, Congress. What would we do without it?

    We'd have a functioning government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 7:21pm

    It looks like the Supreme Court is the only thing that can defend us from the NSA's illegal surveillance practices. Then again, if the Supreme Court's recent decisions are anything to go by, their involvement would most likely doom us than save us.

    That's how far the US has fallen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2014 @ 12:34am

    What do you know about compromise.

    "So we compromised. I've got what I wanted, and they didn't"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    KoD (profile), May 8th, 2014 @ 10:11am


    Except the U.S. has not fallen to this point. The U.S. has never been "for the people." This country was founded on the idea of the ruling elite subjagating everyone else. The inception of the middle class was nothing more than the ruling class giving up just enough to create a buffer between them and the poor.

    Howard Zinn has seriously taught me so mcuh and by showing how dark this country's history is, has given me hope for its future. We have actually made significant progress as a country. Things used to be so much worse. God bless the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.