House passes NSA surveillance reform bill, despite privacy advocates concern

WiretappingThe US House of Representatives has announced the passing of a new bill that would limit the scope of power for the National Security Agency, and their widespread surveillance of both American and international citizens. However, the bill has been changed so much from the original version that it has provided several instances of support to the NSA beyond even the initial compromises.

With the original version of the bill, a great deal of control was stripped from the NSA. Oversight was proposed, certain laws had to be followed (such as court orders for information gathering), and data could no longer be collected in the staggering numbers it had been without cause.

However, the original did not garner enough support to pass. So, the House did what it usually does: began amendment negotiations to create a more non-partisan solution that would gather a majority vote.

Earlier this month, the compromise was reached and everyone thought with the final vote that would be the end of it. But right before that vote, a new version was quietly slipped in and voted on, passing with a 303 to 121 majority. That version is very different than the original compromise.

Already, watchdog groups and privacy advocates had been less than happy with what the House settled on, but were willing to admit it did start massively curbing the NSA’s power. Now, they are livid…the final version gives control in many regards right back to them.

For example, the Attorney General was originally instated to lead declassification reviews. Now the Director of National Intelligence is once more given that roll, removing the oversight. Another change is taking the rule that only online communications to and from targets could be seen, but now any material about the target is fair game.

The terms of mass data collection has been given a loophole, providing the NSA better ability to name certain information safe under “specific selection terms”, thanks to a blatant change in language meant to tip the scales in their favor.

As for companies, they can now legally hide more of what they have been asked to do by the government, a major slap in the face now that it is becoming clear just how much they might have been involved with the NSA already. Especially companies like Google, which are gaining a monopoly in ever tech industry, but seem to be buddy-buddy with government agencies on a global scale.

The new version not only adds the undefined words “address” and “device,” but makes the list of potential selection terms open-ended by using the term “such as.” Congress has been clear that it wishes to end bulk collection, but given the government’s history of twisted legal interpretations, this language can’t be relied on to protect our freedoms., privacy advocacy group EFF said in a statement.

That’s the problem…it doesn’t matter who is in charge, they don’t want our freedoms protected. Otherwise, this kind of program never would have been founded in the first place.

Source: The Verge

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