Posts Tagged ‘PATRIOT Act’

A Deep Dive into the House’s Version of Narrow NSA Reform: The New USA Freedom Act

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 9:33 am by

This post was originally published by Mark Jaycox at EFF’s Deeplinks blog on May 18, 2014 and is shared with permission.

NSA reform is finally moving in Congress. Last year, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the USA Freedom Act, one of the first comprehensive bills to address multiple aspects of the NSA’s spying. The Senate version has languished since October, but last week the House Judiciary Committee (chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte) introduced and passed out of committee a heavily rewritten House version. As a result, two versions of the USA Freedom Act exist: the narrowed House version and the more encompassing Senate version. The movement in the House is a good indication that Congress is still engaged with NSA reform, but the House’s bill must be strengthened and clarified to ensure that it accomplishes one of its main intentions: ending mass collection.

Here’s how the House version of the USA Freedom Act compares to the Senate’s version, what the new House version of the USA Freedom Act does, and what it sorely lacks.


Dissecting Obama’s proposed NSA reforms

Friday, March 28, 2014 at 9:03 am by

Original commentary by Peter Van Buren from Fire Dog Lake published on March 28, 2014.


So, after nine months of ignoring the Snowden revelations, downplaying the the Snowden revelations, not telling the truth about the Snowden revelations, insulting the Snowden revelations, sending members of his administration to lie to Congress about the Snowden revelations and claiming everything the NSA does is legal, righteous

and necessary to keep the barbarians outside the gates, Obama is coincidentally now proposing some “reforms” without acknowledging the Snowden revelations. Let’s have a look based on what we know right now.

Comey has failed, and will continue to fail, to reform FBI

Monday, January 27, 2014 at 9:13 am by
FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

Comments made by Federal Bureau of Investigation director, James Comey, on proposed NSA reforms back in early January clearly demonstrate how little has changed in the agency under his leadership. On Wednesday, January 8, Comey expressed disagreement with key aspects of President Obama’s review panel recommendations, without being able to provide clear and tangible support for his dissension.

The panel made several recommendations to increase transparency with the National Security Agency (NSA) and its surveillance practices, including a proposal to require judicial approval for issuance of national security letters (NSLs). These letters demand business records from Internet providers and others. Comey argued against this proposal, citing NSLs as “a very important building block tool of our national security investigations.” According to Comey, this process “would take days or perhaps weeks, even if more judges were added to the [FISA] court.”


President’s review group puzzler: why is massively overbroad surveillance wrong under 215 but OK under section 702?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 9:09 am by

Original commentary provided by Cindy Cohn and April Glaser and published to EFF’s Deeplinks Blog on January 10, 2014.

obamawinkThe report from the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies on the U.S. government’s mass spying—domestically and around the globe—has much that’s good in it. As the folks handling the only ongoing case where National Security Letters have been declared unconstitutional, we also especially appreciate the recommendation that NSLs may only be issued after judicial review and subject to significant additional limitations. We appreciate their strong endorsement of strong, non-backdoored encryption. And we never thought we’d see a presidential panel explain the risks posed by the government’s stockpiling of Zero Days rather than making sure that they are fixed.

Beyond the NSA: other agencies spy on you, too

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 10:57 am by

This article was originally published by on December 16, 2013. It is the first installment in a series, concluding with this post from December 26.


The latest discoveries about NSA spying revealed that the agency has collected 27 terrabytes of information about cellphone locations to track its targets not only in cyberspace, but also real space. The Panopticon is real. It siphons billions of dollars each year from a federal budget in crisis. And it is watching you and your children.

Lost in the debate about – and even most public resistance to — NSA spying, however, have been the dozens of other federal agencies also complicit in Fourth Amendment abuses.


Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC’s December 2013 Newsletter

Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

December 2013, Vol. 12 No. 12

View this newsletter as a webpage:


Bulk data collection beyond the NSA

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm by

ciaThe National Security Agency (NSA) has received widespread attention since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on its domestic surveillance programs that track everything from cellphone calls to porn watching habits. Now it appears that constitutionally offensive data collection extends beyond the NSA to include other national intelligence agencies.

The NY Times recently reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in particular, has built a close, voluntary relationship with AT&T. At the spy agency’s request, AT&T turns over call records and metadata not only for their customers, but also for anyone whose communication was processed by their equipment. All of this has happened without any court order, without a warrant, and with no independent oversight.

The undeclared war on journalists in the new age of surveillance

Monday, November 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm by

Journalism-is4-e1373668581362The NSA’s bulk collection of internet and telephone data, with no restrictions related to criminal suspicion, imposes enormous chilling effects on activity covered by the First Amendment.

Sources on whom journalists rely fear their anonymity cannot be guaranteed, and whisteblowers fear that revealing government wrongdoing will invoke retaliation. Both situations prevent journalists from performing their constitutional function of holding our democratic government accountable to We the People.

Because of the NSA’s bulk collection of internet and telephone data with no limitation related to criminal suspicion, it imposes enormous chilling effects on First Amendment activity. An October 2013 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists noted numerous examples of journalists who feel they must use great caution to protect sources.


What’s yours is now the government’s: civil forfeiture and the “war on terror”

Monday, November 11, 2013 at 9:53 am by

Civil asset forfeiture sounds like a a dry legal term, but it has a deeper impact on people’s lives and our justice system than you might expect. It’s a practice that threatens property rights, rewards discriminatory policing, and has interesting and unexpected connections with the violations of constitutional rights that have come to define the “war on terror.” Civil asset forfeiture refers to the process of law enforcement seizing property — like cars, money, or houses — suspected of being involved in, or paid for by, illicit activities. This occurs without a charge or conviction because bizarrely, civil forfeiture law names the property itself as the defendant in the lawsuit, rendering the owner’s innocence irrelevant. It is difficult if not impossible to challenge civil asset forfeiture, and police disproportionately apply this practice to poor people, immigrants, and people of color who are already disempowered by the legal system.


Congress responds to grassroots pressure to stop NSA spying

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 9:22 am by



Since this spring, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been the center of controversy due to ongoing revelations of its numerous illegal surveillance programs targeting ordinary Americans, as well as international heads of state. In the wake of the largest rally to date challenging NSA spying–organized by BORDC and the Stop Watching Us coalition–members of Congress introduced a bipartisan measure to dramatically curtail NSA abuses.

Thousands marched from Columbus Circle to the Capitol Reflecting Pool on Saturday, October 26. The march and protest included thousands of live participants, and over 13,000 tuned in to the live stream of the event. The protest featured a range of speakers including Gov. Gary Johnson, Naomi Wolf, Dennis Kucinich, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and BORDC’s Shahid Buttar. For highlights from the rally, watch the video and share it with others who share your privacy concerns.

Since the Snowden leaks first emerged, over two dozen bills have been introduced in Congress that would increase transparency or restrict NSA powers, but only a few would impose meaningful restraints on dragnet spying. Two particular bills, if passed, would begin reinstituting limits on executive power and restore privacy regulations to their pre-9/11 condition.

The first is the USA Freedom Act, introduced on October 29—mere days after the Stop Watching Us rally on Capitol Hill—by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The USA Freedom Act would end the bulk collection of Americans’ records shared with third parties and limit the powers of the PATRIOT Act which target people in the US. It would also amend the 2008 FISA Amendments Act to require court orders before the government could use the public’s information collected during foreign intelligence operations.

The bill has 17 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate and 70 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. This is likely the most popular bill seeking to dismantle the surveillance state since the narrowly defeated Libert-E Act, introduced in June by Congressmen Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI).

The second is the “Surveillance State Repeal Act” (HR 2818) introduced by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ), which would repeal the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act of 2008 in their entirety. In August, BORDC’s Shahid Buttar noted the potency of this bill, “ Among the reform proposals that have been introduced, it may be the only one that reaches the sphere of what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described as the ‘unknown unknowns’ that continue to impede efforts to restore the rule of law, transparency, and accountability to the national security state.” In September, the New York Times endorsed the bill, urging Congress to give its full support.

Holt’s bill would also grant enforceable protections to whistleblowers by making any retaliation by government officials a firing offense. On October 31, BORDC along with a host of other civil liberties organizations have signed onto a formal letter of support endorsing the SSRA and submitted it to members of the Committee on the Judiciary.