Today, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Rules Committee reported a dramatically different version of the USA FREEDOM Act meant to reform NSA surveillance activities than what was unanimously approved by both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees two weeks ago.
Yesterday, Access expressed its concern after learning that House leaders and Obama administration met over the weekend to negotiate the bill and commented, “The version we fear could now be negotiated in secret and introduced on the House floor may not move us forward on NSA reform.”
“It’s greatly disappointing to witness House leaders succumb to the pressure applied by the Obama administration and others, turning its back on the compromise version of USA Freedom that so many supported just two weeks ago. The USA FREEDOM Act had previously passed through two committees before being secretly watered down behind closed doors. Access is forced to withdraw our support of the USA FREEDOM Act,” said Amie Stepanovich, Senior Policy Counsel at Access.
Significant changes to the USA FREEDOM Act include a modified definition of the term “specific selection term,” which was the key to the bill’s proposal to end bulk collection. The new definition offers a non-exclusive list of appropriate selectors, including a “person, entity, accounts, address, or device.” The initial definition limited the term to that which uniquely described a “person, entity, or account.” The new version also substantially weakens the corporate transparency provisions and still does not require the destruction of information incorrectly obtained under FISA Section 702. Other changes further move the bill in the wrong direction.
Stepanovich continued, “this USA FREEDOM Act does not move us far enough forward on NSA reform. As the bill prepares to move to the Senate for further consideration, Access will continue to fight for meaningful reform of NSA practices which are not transparent, not accountable, and not in line with human rights standards.”
The revised version of the USA FREEDOM Act is expected to pass out of the House Rules Committee later tonight and will likely be voted on by the entire House on Thursday, May 22.