House Passes USA Freedom Act

Bill would limit bulk data collection by intelligence agencies
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The House Thursday passed a bill, supported by the President, that would further restrict the data collected from communications companies by the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

The USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361) would take further steps to end bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, as well as boost transparency and reporting requirements for targeted data requests, require more specificity in those requests, and minimize retention and dissemination of nonpublic data.

The President announced his own modification to the data collection regime last March in the wake of revelations related to the NSA leaks.

"The bill ensures our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the Nation, while further ensuring that individuals’ privacy is appropriately protected when these authorities are employed," said the Executive Office of the President in a statement on the bill this week. "Overall, the bill’s significant reforms would provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system. The Administration supports swift House passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, and urges the Senate to follow suit."

"The legislation is a step towards ending the broad intelligence gathering that angers so many Americans," said Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. "While it does not go as far as most advocates would like in limiting certain types of government surveillance of communications, the bill does make an effort to curtail bulk collection of personal data.”

Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said the bill did not go far enough, but at least sent a message.

“While far from perfect, this bill is an unambiguous statement of congressional intent to rein in the out-of-control NSA. While we share the concerns of many – including members of both parties who rightly believe the bill does not go far enough – without it we would be left with no reform at all, or worse, a House Intelligence Committee bill that would have cemented bulk collection of Americans’ communications into law. We will fight to secure additional improvements in the Senate.”

"The House of Representatives missed a critical opportunity to advance meaningful surveillance reform," said Mozilla exec Alex Fowler. "The final version of the USA Freedom Act would still permit broad surveillance of innocent citizens and limit transparency protections that would keep us from knowing about it. The Internet needs and deserves more. If the Senate is unable to address these shortcomings, Congress will have done little to restore trust in the Web by hundreds of millions of Internet users, inside and outside the US."

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