By JOHN EGGERTON
The Senate voted late Tuesday not to take up the USA Freedom Act on the House floor today. That means to get a vote in this Congress, the bill would need to be amended to another bill, likely the must-pass continuing resolution that keeps the government open for business.
The bill revamps the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks about government bulk info collection from communications providers.
The act reforms government surveillance of public communications, including by increasing transparency and public reporting. It is meant to rein in the kind of bulk data collection by government agencies exposed by leaker Edward Snowden, and would affect telco and cable companies.
There are critics of the bill who say it goes too far, and who say it does not go far enough, in protecting the public’s privacy and reigning in bulk collection. Among those who thought the bill got it just about right was the Consumer Electronics Association, which had urged its passage. CEA said that its members “have been hurt by reaction to the revelation of the U.S. government’s bulk data collection.”
“It is shameful that the Senate has voted to block consideration of the USA Freedom Act’s sensible reforms, after those reforms have been debated, negotiated, and renegotiated for over a year and have the support of the White House and the Intelligence Community,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America’s Open Tehcnology Institute.
Not surprisingly, the Government Accountability Project, one of whose clients is Snowden, was not pleased.
“The Senate’s inability to pass even one moderate reform a year and a half after GAP client Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations about the NSA’s illegal warrantless surveillance programs shows a shameful dereliction of duty by our elected representatives,” said GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack. “A generation ago, revelations of the government’s domestic surveillance programs prompted Congress into action, leading to the passage of sweeping surveillance reform. Yesterday’s disappointing Senate vote does a disservice to the brave work done by journalists and whistleblowers in exposing the NSA’s illegal activities.”