House Resolution 3361, known colloquially as the “USA Freedom Act”, passed the house overwhelmingly this week with a vote of 388-80. The resolution, which faces staunch opposition in the Senate in the form of Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, is a response to the revelations about the extent of the dragnet collection of telephone records by the NSA which was authorized
by the Patriot Act passed in the wake of 9/11.
Following a recent decision issued by the Second Judicial Circuit, the House of Representatives moved swiftly and decisively to prevent what most Americans, and indeed many people and governments internationally, believed to be an impermissible invasion of their privacy. The bill is intended to end the dragnet collection of phone records, but as usual with bills purporting to curtail what is seen as a part of the Nation’s security apparatus, the Freedom Act leaves
much to be desired.
In its current form the bill patently fails to do enough to curtail surveillance activities of the NSA and the federal government as it only actually prevents the collection of records of domestic telephone calls. While this sounds like a step in the right direction, it doesn’t make much of a dent in the NSA’s actions, as it still permits them to track your texts, emails, picture messages, etc. domestically, and does absolutely nothing to limit the NSA’s foreign surveillance.
While this will be seen by many as a positive step for the USFG, its supporters should perhaps exercise a bit of reservation in their elation. It’s exactly bills like this–bills that look and sound like they’re doing something broad and sweeping, but actually do something quite discrete–that allow the federal government to invade the rights of private citizens and people everywhere. So, while people probably should support this bill, they should only do so with the understanding that this is but the first step in a long legal battle to protect the privacy of people everywhere from government intrusion.