USA Freedom Act Passes Out Of House Judiciary Committee With Some Good And Some Bad

from the it's-meh-all-around dept

As expected, the USA Freedom Act has been passed out of the House Judiciary Committee today, moving the bill forward in a process that will likely bring some version of it to the House floor in the next few weeks. The markup include a variety of amendments, some dopier than others. One generally good amendment was added, bringing back the transparency provisions for tech companies to reveal some information about government requests they receive. Unfortunately, this wasn't as strong as it should be, keeping very wide "bands" under which the tech companies have to obfuscate how many requests they actually receive and how many users are impacted. There was some push to tighten the bands, and that is likely to continue, but it's unlikely to change. Late yesterday, the manager's amendment also added an important definition for "specific selection term" -- which if left totally undefined would easily lead to abuse. The definition is... not great. It can still be abused, but not as readily as when there was no definition.

The other major problem is that this new version strips out the attempt to close the loophole that allowed backdoor searches on Americans without a warrant. This is a big deal as the original version would have closed that loophole. The NSA apparently lobbied hard to remove it, and when Rep. Zoe Lofgren tried to amend this new version to bring back the ban, it was rejected quickly. In other words, the NSA (who has pretended this is no big deal) likely uses this "loophole" quite a bit and doesn't want to lose it.

That said, the bill is clearly a step forward, and both EFF and CDT have cautiously praised the House Judiciary Committee for moving forward on the bill, while still asking for more civil liberties protections and greater transparency.

The real question, though, is what will the House Intelligence Committee do with the bill tomorrow. As we noted earlier today, after fighting it for months, Rep. Mike Rogers has now indicated he's more comfortable with the (weakened) bill, and will be doing a dual markup of both his own bill and this new USA Freedom Act, leading many to suspect that some sort of deal has been reached to effectively incorporate parts of his (bad) bill into this USA Freedom Act -- potentially weakening it even further. We'll find out in a few hours.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

    That One Guy (profile), May 7th, 2014 @ 6:44pm

    Kill it with fire

    Rogers has more than made his allegiance clear through words and actions, and it isn't to the general public, so the odds that the bill will make it through without a number of extremely nasty 'additions' tacked on after he's done with it is, I'd say, zero to nil.

    I've noted it before, and I'll repeat it, the NSA and it's defenders have had far too much influence on the bills designed to reign them in, trusting anything they've had their hands on to do what it's supposed to is naive at best, as they're much more likely to weaken any real proposed reform and/or rules to the point of uselessness, while inserting wording that legitimizes their actions before they have to defend them in a real court, grant themselves even more power than they already have, or both.


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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 8:52pm

    The fix is already done. This mark up would never have made it this far had the NSA had to actually worry about something being lost. They would have seen to it their pet politicians had it killed before it made it out of the markup. The only reason it has made it out is because before it makes it to the floor, it will have been changed beyond recognition.

    I have no hope this bill will actually do anything for increasing the public's privacy.

    The poll run by Mozilla indicated that world wide, the number one concern of Firefox users is Privacy.


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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2014 @ 11:17pm

    We're going to lose 75 percent of the USA Freedom Act strength. Is that what they call "compromise" in US government?

    Because it sounds like they're just giving in, even though they had a lot of support for it. One way to see that they're giving in is that this bill pass unanimously. That means the "Bad Guys" had no more complaints about it - that should worry us, and it means they weakened it enough to be almost useless (or will soon).

    A "good" anti-surveillance bill, would've still had some fighting against it. This doesn't. Why do you think that is?


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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2014 @ 2:14am

    "Freedom act" is all about terminating what little freedoms there are left. Irony is ironic.


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    Ninja (profile), May 8th, 2014 @ 2:48am

    leading many to suspect that some sort of deal has been reached to effectively incorporate parts of his (bad) bill into this USA Freedom Act -- potentially weakening it even further

    Rogers would love to amend the Constitution to remove those pesky 1th and 4th Amendments. Since it seems he can't he'll go the legislative way while ignoring them.


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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2014 @ 7:19am

    "Freedom" Act
    "Patriot" Act

    None of these laws are necessary, they just need to look like they're doing something.


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

    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2014 @ 10:19am

    considering how the NSA, CIA, FBI and all the other so-called 'security services' act, this is nothing other than giving lip service. none of the services have taken any notice in the past, taking the parts they didn't like and using 'secret interpretations' so as to make the unpalatable bits, palatable. anyone expect there to be any difference is in cuckoo land! when you have people in charge of 'security' of a nation that think the only way to protect the inhabitants is to piss off every other country on the globe, to the extent that there is no telling what will happen as far as retaliation is concerned, to piss off every one of your own citizens while doing the 'protection' as well, what a way to promote yourself as a freedom loving, privacy extorting country that is the safest out there!


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    Rekrul, May 8th, 2014 @ 3:18pm

    That said, the bill is clearly a step forward...

    A "step" forward? That implies that there will be more bills or actions to come. I seriously doubt that that's the case. More likely, this will be the one and only action that's taken in regard to the domestic spying.

    The bill will get watered down to the point where it's useless, it will get passed and everyone involved will pat themselves on the back for having "fixed" the problem, then they'll move onto the next issue. Over, done, stick a fork in it. :(


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

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