The House passed the USA FREEDOM Act today, which is supposed to fix the PATRIOT Act and rein in the NSA, but falls far short of what we need to get our rights back. The vote was 303-121, with 179 Republicans and 124 Democrats in favor. The bill now goes to the Senate, but I doubt it will get fixed enough to keep this from being a huge wasted opportunity to restore our privacy.
Here’s James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the chief sponsor of the bill: “Let me be clear: I wish this bill did more. To my colleagues who lament the changes, I agree with you. The privacy groups who are upset about lost provisions, I share your disappointment.”
Here’s Zoe Logren (D-California), who supported the bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee, but voted against the final bill: “This is not the bill that was voted out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. Regrettably, we have learned that if we leave any ambiguity in the law [on bulk data collection], the intelligence agency will run a truck through that ambiguity.”
Companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook had supported the original bill, but did not support the final version, believing that it contains a loophole for government surveillance of our Internet data.
The bill also dropped the provision creating an independent public advocate at the FISA court. It removed provisions about public reports from the government about its targeting activity and FISA court requests.
The bill requires phone companies to keep records for 18 months, with the NSA having to get a court order to access those records.