House Judiciary Passes USA FREEDOM Act

Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed an amended version of the USA FREEDOM Act, bipartisan legislation on NSA surveillance programs. The Center for Democracy & Technology strongly supports the Committee’s unanimous vote to advance the amended bill, though several of the problems raised by overbroad surveillance remain unaddressed.

The following can be attributed to Harley Geiger, CDT Senior Counsel:

“Today the House Judiciary Committee gave the strongest signal yet that bulk collection in the U.S. of communications metadata is unacceptable. This unanimous vote should send a clear message to Congressional Leadership that the USA FREEDOM Act deserves a swift floor vote and should be adopted without amendments that would weaken the bill.”

“The version of the USA FREEDOM Act that passed the Committee today bans the bulk collection of all types of communications metadata in the U.S., ensures that bulk collection cannot be shifted to another statute, and preserves the requirement that the government obtain court approval prior to surveillance activity. While not achieving the degree of transparency for private parties we wanted, the bill was amended to allow companies to make reports on surveillance demands that will inform public debate. The amended bill’s ban on bulk collection is stronger than the bill as introduced, and the transparency requirements are stronger than the recent settlement agreement between the Administration and companies.”

“The bill, unfortunately, does not make substantial improvements to Section 702 of FISA, the basis for the PRISM program. The company transparency provisions should also be more detailed in order to allow U.S. businesses to accurately report the scope of surveillance demands they face. Congress should commit to continuing work on these and other surveillance issues after passing USA FREEDOM and eliminating bulk collection in the U.S.”

“The Committee’s vote is a huge step toward enacting real surveillance reform. We now urge the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Congressional Leadership to refrain from weakening the USA FREEDOM Act and to send this critical bill to the Senate.”