Surveillance

The USA Freedom Act Passes! Senate Approves Restrictions on Surveillance Against Americans.

Modest, but actual, scaling back on metadata collection authorities.

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Raise a glass!
The Guardian

We will see privacy-minded reform of the National Security Act (NSA) and FBI's expansive surveillance authorities targeting Americans. The USA Freedom Act has passed the Senate. This is the first time Congress has restrained surveillance powers in years.

The proposed amendments Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced earlier today to weaken the USA Freedom Act were all rejected this afternoon by the full Senate. After his failure, the Senate voted in favor of the Freedom Act as it was additionally delivered to the Senate (meaning amendments by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would not be considered).

Ultimately the USA Freedom Act, which is meant to replace sunsetted Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act with stricter rules for the collection of Americans' telephone and electronic metadata by the National Security Agency (NSA), was approved unamended. The final vote was 67-32. It will now head to President Barack Obama for his signature. The White House has already declared support for this version of the bill.

The bill was far from perfect, which is why some privacy-minded politicians like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) opposed it and wanted it to be even stronger. Paul again said no for this final vote for the bill.

But the passage of the Freedom Act should nevertheless be seen as a win. No, it does not end mass metadata collection entirely, but it does require more selective search terms for records, collecting them from the telecom and Internet companies using these terms, not just trying to collect all records and then searching through them for the ones they want. It also sheds some much-needed sunlight on the mysterious Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court by permitting third-party advisors to advocate for the protection of civil liberties and calls for the declassification of FISA Court decisions. (Read more about the Freedom Act here).

There is still more to be done to scale back the authority of the federal government to inappropriately access Americans' data. The Guardian has a look at what is next on the agendas of privacy politicians here.

If you choose to celebrate this outcome, make sure to spare a toast to Edward Snowden, without which this would not have happened.

Update: Here's a video of McConnell expressing his disappointment in advance of a vote he knows he is about to lose:

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  1. I agree completely; well said.

    Always strive for the perfect, but never let it be the enemy of the good.

    1. The perfect was accomplished at midnight Sunday. This takes us back to bad. And this provides politicians the ability to day they are doing something, and the idiot public will fall asleep again.

    2. Enemy of the good? What’cha talkin’ ’bout, WIllis? This law is worse than the Patriot Act. Read it and weep:

      https://goo.gl/lxiVjS

      Are we allowed to post links to LRC? Will this earn me an instant ban?

  2. The proposed amendments Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced earlier today to weaken the USA Freedom Act were all rejected this afternoon by the full Senate.

    Then it’s all worth it. But let’s not kid ourselves. They will continue their data collection unabated.

    1. Actually, now’s the perfect time to for the NSA to expand surveillance.

      1. With the funds for “decommissioning” projects.

    2. Yeah, I agree that any steps Congress takes to limit spying on Americans is a positive but I’m not naive enough to believe it still won’t happen.

      Still, make it harder for them to get away with it. The story about the FBI planes is an example. Make them own it. If they are going to flagrantly violate the Constitution to spy on Americans then make sure they have to work hard to justify it, and if they can’t (which is usually the case) then sue the shit out of them.

      MAKE THEM SHOW THEIR WORK.

      1. Therein lies the problem. You can’t sue. That’s what makes this spying so egregiously insidious – it’s ONE SIDED. The Stasi’s defense is “NATIONAL SECURITY”. The plaintiff’s lawyers won’t have access to the illegalities perpetrated against their clients. Judges were told to NOT adjudicate these case b/c there’s too many blatant violation against the 4th Amendment. Lawyers & civilians are being “droned” out. What a complete annihilation of the Fourth Amendment.

        1. Privacy activists should push a law expanding standing in government surveillance cases, allowing plaintiffs to bring cases even if they don’t have particular evidence of government violations directly against them.

          Standing, while not directly addressed by the Constitution, has been used by the courts to dismiss lawsuits alleging constitutional violations by secret government programs….because it is impossible for the plaintiff to actually get the evidence.

          1. The Stasi will just rely on their counterparts – the private sector so that they keep their “hands clean”. There should also be an investigation on a far more insidious & intrusive spying – Fusion Centers which utilizes biometrics & facial recognition capabilities. I think the Fusion Centers is the next “shoe” to drop.The “Standing” argument is a blatant violation against the Sixth Amendment. I do not agree that it’s impossible to gather up evidence. Challenging yes. Impossible? No.

            Read Chris Hedges’ sobering article, “A Nation of Snitches”. Pretty soon it’ll be us getting on a life boat fleeing from a falling democracy.

    3. They will continue their data collection unabated.

      Perhaps, but at least they will need to be a bit more creative to use it to fuck people with.

  3. Does the scaleback include things like internet search history, browser history and email correspondence? Or are we just talking about telephone voice data?

    If it’s just voice data, then this bill means nothing, who actually calls people (except their mothers) anymore?

    1. It’s all records — “all tangible things” in the bill’s terms, just as with the PATRIOT Act.

      1. Ah, gotcha. Thanks!

  4. I still don’t trust the government, Scott.

    1. I don’t either. It’s ok.

  5. “USA Freedom Act”

    Just the name gives me the heebie jeebies.

    Why don’t they call it by its real name? ‘We’re still gonna spy on you, bitches. So embrace the suck’.

    1. Exactly. The true USA Freedom Act used to be called the the Bill of Rights, prior to which was Natural Rights prior to which was Unalienable Rights as Endowed by our Creator. I don’t need a piece of paper to validate the rights that are mine inherently. All this bill does is obfuscate our natural rights and reinforce the fable that we need government to assign us our liberty.

    2. The Congress and President are Traitors Act?

  6. Rep. Peter King is a piece of human excrement, part… oh, fuck it, I’ve lost count.

    Rep. Pete KingVerified account
    ?@RepPeteKing
    Today’s Senate NSA vote is a victory for America, for freedom over ignorance and defeat for ISIS, Edward Snowden & Rand Paul

    1. Peter King R-IRA

    2. We’re collecting your data for freedom, damn it!

      And I’m glad that traitor Rand Paul has been defeated. He’s public enemy number 1!

    3. Both much better men than you could ever be, Pete.

      1. Kind of a low bar in truth. The list of better human beings than Peter King could be sold as a time life set with one new volume each month. Keep the ones you want cancel at anytime.

        Sign up now and get volume 1 (child molesters and serial killers) for only 1.99

        1. +1 pederasty

    4. “Rep. Peter King is a piece of human excrement”

      That’s pretty generous of you. Does scum have excrement? Cause he would be the scum that lives on the maggots that live in scum excrement.

  7. it does require more selective search terms for records

    So, search on “man || woman || child” instead of “person”?

  8. “Here’s a video of McConnell expressing his disappointment in advance of a vote he knows he is about to lose:”

    I’m going to save that for when I need some cheering-up.

  9. When a shadowy executive agency unanswerable to any authority other than the amateur golfist in chief gets a mandate, how do you ensure that they abide by it?

    1. And Mitch McConnell can go to hell. The only thing he’s good for is gridlock.

    2. And it cannot be said often enough: JAMES CLAPPER LIED TO CONGRESS. In all the TV coverage of Rand Paul’s filibuster, has this fact been mentioned?

      1. I think Paul mentioned it.

  10. Look everybody! A Freedom Squirrel! The Man is lying to you. Gotta go get a sandwich- *puts on tinfoil hat and prepares to go outside.
    All kidding aside, we live in a time where our own complacence is killing the freedom we enjoy.

  11. Shell game.

    The data collection that they were engaging in before was not authorized, i.e. illegal. This bill can only expand authorization, not scale it back.

    I doubt it will have any effect at all on the behavior of a government already so far over the line of legitamacy.

    1. That’s what I was thinking. Is the authorization for the illegal data collection has sunset, than this bill can only mean it has been re-authorized, with some additional Pirates Of The Caribbean-style guidelines really.

  12. Sort of on-topic:
    “FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over US cities”
    […]
    “The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology ? all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.
    The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. The FBI said it uses front companies to protect the safety of the pilots and aircraft. It also shields the identity of the aircraft so that suspects on the ground don’t know they’re being watched by the FBI.”
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/…..nsnewsap11

    20mm, anyone?

    1. Thanks for posting. I was in South Central LA back in early April. I saw a plane flying exactly as described in the article and even pointed it out to my wife. I figured it was some govt surveillance. FBI huh.

      I’m not paranoid after all.

      1. Being paranoid doesn’t mean you’re not being followed.

      2. Ernest Hemingway was considered paranoid because he thought the FBI was monitoring him. Until we found out the FBI WAS monitoring him.

    2. “20mm, anyone?”

      Dunno, man. Why bother with a 20mm when you can shoot down a plane with a .50 BMG?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-U4uOz1_Jo

      1. ‘Cause an Oerlikon is just so effective!
        One well-placed round and, poof!

  13. Any guesses as to who organized today’s airline bomb threats? I for one was shocked that this happened the day of the vote…

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireS…..t-31464961

    1. Weren’t we JUST saying that there’d be threats, so everyone could call Paul a tosser for endangering us all with his anti-security shenanigans?

      Periodically, it is good to be reminded that no matter how cynical we are, it is not cynical enough.

    2. Surely it wasn’t anyone in OUR little government…

      1. Well, technically, Cheney is no longer part of the govt.

  14. Snowden is a true American patriot, unlike our Congress, which continues this unconstitutional invasion of privacy. I’d like to know where all those pocket editions of our Constitution were when these losers voted to extend this unAmerican program. But! The article above is only partly correct. Although it did remove the massive collection of data from the NSA, it just dumped the responsibility onto the Telcos, from which the NSA, CIA and FBI can pick through it at will…But the biggest inroad into our privacy that isn’t discussed by the press, is that the ‘Freedom Act’ (sic) has expanded data collection into cell phones. This is not really a shrinking of the intrusive ‘alphabet spooks’, but a real expansion. Thank you Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, for ignoring your American heritage, the Constitution and the citizenry!

    1. So they’ve reduced government spending because they no longer have to store and maintain this data… yeah…….

      1. With no data to srore, I guess that facility at Bluffdale, Utah will have to be repurposed as an well air-conditioned shopping mall or something.

        1. ok, “store”.

  15. Only a dark, misanthropic cosmotarian piece of beltway bolshevism masquerading as a friend of liberty would characterize the passage of this monstrosity as a “victory”.

    1. Did you read the article?

      1. Yes, but I also have read some of the text of the statute. What is of greater weight in discussing this matter?

        1. I feel you were characterizing Shackford as claiming this was a victory. And using some rather unflattering language directed at him to do so. Perhaps I’m wrong?

          1. In his own words, he writes, “[b]ut the passage of the Freedom Act should nevertheless be seen as a win.”

            Enough of the phony-baloney “the perfect is the enemy of the good” meme to conceal the truth.

  16. Section 102. Emergency Authority.

    (a) Section 501 (50 U.S.C. 1861) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

    (I) EMERGENCY AUTHORITY FOR PRODUCTION OF TANGIBLE THINGS.

    (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Attorney General may require the production of tangible things if the Attorney General –

    (A) that an emergency situation requires the production of tangible things before an order authorizing such production can with due diligence be obtained……..

    Yeah, hooray, its a VICTORY!

    1. Forgot to include “reasonably determines” at the beginning of (A).

  17. Senate Approves Restrictions on Surveillance Against Americans.

    So these are restrictions that completely circumvent our 4th amendment protections?

    Do we call these double-secret restrictions?

    1. It would have been more accurate to say, “Senate approves renewed surveillance against Americans, with some cursory restrictions.”

  18. There is a system of snooping on citizens the colonists would have never accepted. America overthrew the United States. The overthrow began quickly with the 1790 Copy[rite] Regime ignoring the human right to protect the honor of the self from unauthorized repetition or use of free speech to the Citizen’s United repeal of democracy.
    I love ALL the United States in America but regret these being replaced with the Corporate ‘Status’ of America where localized control by citizens is no longer possible. The self-rule experiment of USA has failed. There is nothing to do now but accept the corporate oligarchy.

  19. Am I missing something. If section 215 is sunsetting, then there is no authorization for mass data collection, so isn’t placing restrictions on its use a moot point? Does the new bill itself actually authorize mass data collection, just with more restrictions? WTF?

  20. Check out Section 105, Liability Protection.

    The telcos are immunized from suit.

    In the next section, the amended statute provides for paying the telcos for ratting us out.

    With victories like this, who needs losses?

    1. These are referred to as Pyrrhic victories. While I seem some symbolic virtue in this, we’re still watching the government act illegally. . .and doing little to stop it.

      1. At least Pyrrhus actually gave the Romans a bloody nose.

    2. Yay!

      Telcos nationalized and conscripted into service to the NSA.

      Let Freedom Ring!

      Yes, we hear you now!

  21. That republican politician is out of touch with the times. Back when there were over 20,000 Soviet Socialist H-bombs aimed this way, a clear and present danger case could be made for ignoring the LP. But the commies folded. The hobgoblin of Demonic Possession by Drugs was attacked next causing crashes that still persist and may have instigated the WTC attacks on Drug Czar day. War was not declared but a Crusade was launched on medieval Mohammedan Infidels whose real enemy is the politicians in that very room, all of whom my friends and I voted against.
    Timothy Leary thought the enemy was the Republican Party, and I’m wondering if he wasn’t right.

  22. So, the only way to stop the snooping is elect Rand Paul. That is the moral of the story.

    1. I was thinking exactly that. He’s our Kenobi.

    2. Rand Paul is a Republican antiabortionst. Comparatively not as bad as the others, but the difference is of degree, not a difference of kind. 150 years of Red Republicans tilting at now-pink Democrats have been tried, failed, and it’s time to move on to something less inclined to look for excuses for pointing guns in people’s faces. Am I exaggerating?

      1. Rand Paul is a Republican antiabortionst. Comparatively not as bad as the others, but the difference is of degree, not a difference of kind.

        By difference of degree, you mean the GOP and the Democrats are FOR mass surveillance, Rand is against it?

      2. And yet, abortion is still available, quick and relatively cheap.

        Someone isn’t very good at being an anti.

      3. Why are you bringing up this false equivalence canard? Legal abortion is the law of the land. Nothing has changed since 1973. Other than the government is SPYING on you.

        1. He brings up the anti-abortion bogeyman because it’s a sure way to spook all the proggies and at least half of the libertarians.

          Back in the 70s our office feminist used to recite the mantra that “If men could have babies, abortion would be a sacrament”. Well, they still can’t but it is and punishment for sacrilege is severe.

  23. One would have to be very naive to trust the centralized government.

  24. This country has descended into full Orwellian double-speak. The other day there was someone on CNN saying that Rand Paul is lying, that there is no govt. surveillance, and Rand is trying to make us unsafe. The guest on the show agreed with the anchor. Rubio, the latino HACK said the same thing not long ago. Now Congress (the officials elected by the mega banks and arms manufacturers) has passed a bill called “The USA Freedom Act.” All you need to do is look at the name and you know what the bill does. They pass a bill to authorize and supposedly limit an activity that the courts have said is illegal. WTF are we living in? This entire thing is an outrage and a disgrace. Frauds used to be tarred and feathered in public. Congress consists of 99% frauds.

    1. I am guessing you were watching Cuomo and Pataki blowing each other on CNN the other morning. I had to throw a shoe at the TV when I heard Pataki talking that crap about how there’s nothing at all Gestapo-y about what the spy agencies are doing and what they’re doing is the only thing that keeps the bogey man from murdering you in your sleep.

      1. It’s just like the TSA. They haven’t stopped ONE terrorist attack. GET. RID. OF. THEM. ALL. Make them all get real jobs doing something that benefits society and doesn’t cost taxpayer money. The fact that it still exists is infuriating. Same thing with the NSA, CIA, DEA, etc.

  25. I imagine this doesn’t touch the activities of the National Security Analysis Center (NSAC).

  26. “This is the first time Congress has restrained surveillance powers in years.”

    What *evidence* do we have that the liars at the NSA have reduced the data they collect by 1 bit?

    1. Exactly as much evidence as we have that the votes are counted correctly the way you and I cast them. Mark Twain voted by raising his hand and proudly shouting his vote in a public square, like all his neighbors in Hannibal, Missouri. That was objectively verifiable voting.

  27. Someone needs to remind the good people of the Hill that bulk data may very well contain their
    phone records. I’m sure those are a lot more interesting than Joe Blows or John Q. Citizen’s bulk.

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  29. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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  31. Hey President Obama, Given the state of so many things you’ve had your hand in, maybe it’s time to do something right. It’s time to give Edward Snowden complete amnesty from prosecution and let him come home. He is a hero, not a criminal. The hypocrisy of the situation couldn’t be more obvious. Snowden provided the information that led to the implementation of legislation that, although modest, begins the process of ending unwarranted domestic snooping by the CIA, NSA, and FBI. Do the right thing and bring our guy home.

    1. Second the motion. All in favor…?

      1. Aye.

        Also, it would be awesome if Rand Paul were elected president and gave Snowden a full pardon and maybe a medal or two.

  32. Gotta hand it to Rand Paul for having the integrity to rise above the misrepresentation. As I write, his fellow Republicans are stalking his nomination chances, stilettos drawn. We should as clearly realize it is as wrong to give a vote to Positive National Prohibitionism (not bound to a specific denomination) as it is to back the equally collectivist infiltrators now controlling the Dems. Verifiable elections (with a password to check how your own vote was counted) would, I’ll wager, show the LP in fact routinely gets over 2% of the national vote. In Texas alone many counties racked up 5-6% Libertarian votes last election (and possibly much more).

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