The prospects for serious NSA reform looked grim only weeks ago when the House of Representatives passed a watered-down version of the USA Freedom Act that failed to end bulk data collection and actually strengthened some NSA spying powers.
But as more lawmakers took the novel approach of actually reading what they voted for, they did not like what they saw. This became obvious when the House voted last month — in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion — on an amendment to actually rein in the NSA.
Now Firedoglake is calling on its activists to turn their attention to the Senate Judiciary committee where the weakened Freedom Act is awaiting a hearing and a vote. The Judiciary Chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy, co-authored the original Freedom Act and has indicated a willingness to restore actual reforms — such as an end to bulk collection — to the current bill. If these bedrock reforms are not restored, the prudent course of action is to kill this bill and start from the beginning.
The amendment that passed the House last month would put a stop to warrantless “backdoor” searches by the NSA, and prevent them from forcing tech companies to build vulnerabilities into their products.
This is an important reform but unfortunately it cannot and does not address many of the issues of NSA abuse that remain – including bulk data collection.
For that to happen, the Senate will need to make some major changes to the Freedom Act and the Judiciary Committee is the place where that is most likely to happen. Sen. Leahy has said his committee will take up the bill sometime this summer. Firedoglake is planning on making our voices heard before those hearings.