- Bug lets Twitter save your DMs—even after you delete them Friday 7:21 PM
- Guy mansplains song to Japanese Breakfast, the female artist who wrote the song Friday 6:38 PM
- Ann Coulter’s Twitter bio links to a vulgar parody account Friday 5:22 PM
- Popular YouTube music channel gets income yanked for ‘repetitious’ content Friday 4:14 PM
- New website will endlessly generate fake faces thanks to AI Friday 3:41 PM
- Man fakes getting stood up at Outback Steakhouse Friday 3:03 PM
- FCC looks to tackle robocalls and spoofed texts Friday 2:57 PM
- How to protect yourself from the data breach that affected 744 million accounts Friday 12:56 PM
- How to stream Rob Brant vs. Khasan Baysangurov online for free Friday 12:21 PM
- No, Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t have her boyfriend on her payroll Friday 12:20 PM
- Writers want this book canceled for misgendering its protagonist Friday 12:15 PM
- Trump Jr’s meme about his dad’s border wall doesn’t get how Congress works Friday 11:44 AM
- FBI reportedly looking into Ryan Adams’ communications with underage girl Friday 11:25 AM
- Trump does Chinese accent, declares national emergency, bewilders the internet Friday 11:21 AM
- Chrissy Teigen throws shade at Logan Paul-Kaitlin Bennett pairing Friday 10:48 AM
One step forward, three steps back.
The USA Freedom Act, once championed as the best way to limit mass government surveillance, passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday in a 303-121 vote. But privacy advocates inside and outside of Congress aren’t happy.
BREAKING: USA FREEDOM Act passes the House. It’s a weak attempt at NSA reform. We’re working for a stronger version in the Senate.
— EFF (@EFF) May 22, 2014
Earlier this week, the Obama administration reportedly led last-minute backroom negotiations with House leaders to include new language in the bill that many believe negates efforts to meaningfully reign in National Security Agency spying activities. As a result, public supporters of the bill, including civil liberties advocates and major Internet companies, have since come out against the legislation, calling it “watered down” and “gutted.”
Formally known as H.R. 3361, the Freedom Act initially gathered broad bipartisan support, with more than 140 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. Ahead of Thursday’s House vote, however, that number began to fall.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), an original cosponsor of the Freedom Act, announced on Facebook that he would vote ‘no’ on the current draft of the bill.
I am an original cosponsor of the Freedom Act, and I was involved in its drafting. At its best, the Freedom Act would have reined in the government’s unconstitutional domestic spying programs, ended the indiscriminate collection of Americans’ private records, and made the secret FISA court function more like a real court—with real arguments and real adversaries.
I was and am proud of the work our group, led by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, did to promote this legislation, as originally drafted.
However, the revised bill that makes its way to the House floor this morning doesn’t look much like the Freedom Act.
Another original cosponsor, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) also pulled his support for the bill:
— Rep. Jared Polis (@RepJaredPolis) May 22, 2014
As did a number of the bill’s other former supporters in Congress:
The watered-down #USAFreedomAct that passed the House doesn’t do enough to rein in the NSA & fails to adequately protect privacy. I voted NO
— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) May 22, 2014
— Rep. Mick Mulvaney (@RepMickMulvaney) May 22, 2014
— Rep. Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda) May 22, 2014
— Michael Burgess, MD (@michaelcburgess) May 22, 2014
— Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) May 22, 2014
Despite the rising dissent, support for the bill remained strong in the House. And other cosponsors of the bill—including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.)—have touted its benefits for the privacy of Americans.
The group issued the following joint statement following Thursday’s vote:
Today’s strong, bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives on the USA Freedom Act will help protect our cherished individual liberties as the federal government carries out its duty to keep our nation safe from foreign enemies. The USA Freedom Act safeguards Americans’ civil liberties by ending domestic bulk collection once and for all and increases the oversight and transparency of these intelligence-gathering programs so that we can begin to rebuild trust with the American people.
The primary objection to the House-approved draft of the bill stems from the new definition of “specific selection term,” which dictates what data the NSA is allowed to surveill. An earlier version, which privacy advocates supported, limited these terms to “a person, entity, or account.” The latest draft adds the terms “address” and “device,” and prefaces them with the non-limiting phrase “such as,” which critics say leaves the bill open to dangerously broad interpretation.
Another major criticism of the legislation includes a lack of significant reform to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments (FISA) Act, which dictates when the NSA may collect data on Americans in particular circumstances, and how they must handle data incorrectly collected from U.S. citizens.
The Freedom Act will now move on to the Senate, which is expected to consider the legislation later this year.
Photo via Elvert Barnes/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.