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Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the assuming-they-can-pass-anything dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Today Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill that would ban bulk collection of telephone records and internet data for U.S. citizens. This is a stronger version of the legislation that passed the U.S. House in May, and it has support from the executive branch as well. "The bill, called the USA Freedom Act, would prohibit the government from collecting all information from a particular service provider or a broad geographic area, such as a city or area code, according to a release from Leahy's office. It would expand government and company reporting to the public and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews NSA intelligence activities. Both House and Senate measures would keep information out of NSA computers, but the Senate bill would impose stricter limits on how much data the spy agency could seek."
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Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:04PM (#47559751) Homepage Journal

    I will cheer for you all the way until the first anonymous hold prevents you from advancing to a vote!

    • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:10PM (#47559797)
      Well, since the party whose member is placing the hold has to at least make that known, if there's bipartisan support in the House and the Executive Branch is on board, I don't expect such a hold to go over very well. This might be one of the few things that both parties agree on and that neither party could really use as leverage against the other in an election year, as the public is starting to get upset across the board about it too.
      • As someone who is generally an Obama supporter, the executive hasn't been on board the last few times this question came up.

        • by TWX (665546)
          Of course not! Would you voluntarily give up a tool that was handed to you when you started your job, without a replacement provided?

          That's the entire point of having separate branches of government.
        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:55PM (#47560195)

          TFS notes that Obama is behind this bill.

          I find this interesting, since as head of the Executive Branch, he can order the NSA to do what this bill requires without bothering with a law, since no law exists requiring the NSA to collect telephone records on everyone.

          And if such a law existed, it would be pretty clearly unconstitutional, and thus null and void....

          • The House bill started out as a strong pro-privacy bill that made a few concessions to NSA spying. By the time it was done with amendments, all that was left were the concessions to NSA spying and a bunch of nice but useless speechmaking. Obama may be talking positively now, but the pro-surveillance folks in the Senate will try to gut the bill, and anything that makes it past them will get trashed in the House-Senate joint resolution process.

          • by Dins (2538550)

            I find this interesting, since as head of the Executive Branch, he can order the NSA to do what this bill requires without bothering with a law, since no law exists requiring the NSA to collect telephone records on everyone.

            Yeah, but it's an election year. This way Congress con vote on something obviously popular to get credit for it. Not much, but it's something - and more than if Obama just exeuctive ordered it. Just a thought...

          • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @04:03PM (#47560279) Homepage Journal

            I find this interesting, since as head of the Executive Branch, he can order the NSA to do what this bill requires without bothering with a law, since no law exists requiring the NSA to collect telephone records on everyone.

            However, he can't order the next President to continue his policies. There's a lot to be said for pinning these things down so that they can't be changed on a whim.

            • If the (current) President of the USA is willing (and able) to ignore the Constitution of the USA, why do you think the next President would follow a mere law?
          • by Nimey (114278)

            I'm fairly sure we have secret laws to do with National Security; those are a post-WTC innovation, so it's entirely possible that there is in fact a law requiring same that Obama can't do much about.

            Mind you, I don't think he cares much about civil liberties either.

          • I find it interesting that ALL OF THIS is covered by the Fourth Amendment. WE shouldn't need new legislation to uphold it.
          • That's an excellent point. The executive, including the NSA, reports to the president. If the president wants them to stop doing something, he doesn't need a law - he can just say "stop doing that". We've seen him do exactly that, he said "stop deporting illegal aliens under 18 years old", and they stopped. Therefore, we know that they aren't doing anything the president cares to stop. He would have already stopped it if he wanted to.

            Probably, the extremely specific language of this bill bans something

          • Isn't it interesting how Obama is using executive power to do all kinds of things and ignoring laws that he doesn't like (ex: immigration laws, Obamacare mandates, etc), but when something like this falls clearly within his power he does nothing?

          • by Agripa (139780)

            If Obama's actual position is not to support the bill, he may do so anyway for good publicity if he knows it will not pass anyway. The two parties do this all the time in the House and Senate when it is known that a Bill will not pass but it is advantageous for some members to vote for it anyway.

        • Maybe this is all a strategy to get a republican in office in 2016, screw things up even worse; so that Cory Booker can run on a reform platform and win in a landslide. I swear he's being groomed even more than Obama was.

    • We already know this bill won't work. The executive branch can stop the spying at any time, just by giving an order. Therefore we know the executive branch LIKES the spying on everyone, and will work to keep it going. So if they are supporting this bill then this bill can't have any real limits on the spying.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Really.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:07PM (#47559779)

    Golly gee, with a name like the "USA Freedom Act," it must be good!

    I wonder if anyone's every thought of writing up a "Patriot Act" - that would be doubleplus awesome!

  • by xfizik (3491039) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:11PM (#47559801)
    As a non-American I couldn't care less how much the U.S. government is spying on its citizens. What I'm concerned about is the absence of effort to curb the U.S. spying on non-Americans. I haven't heard my government even acknowledging the fact that the U.S. is going through all our communications. Decentralized Internet is badly needed and nothing seems to be in works...
    • Trust me, most of us don't want them spying on you either. But if you think we can do anything about that, before we stop them from spying on US, you're nutz.

      • by xfizik (3491039) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:38PM (#47560037)
        No, I'm not nutz and I understand the realities of all this, but the fact is that while you at least get the talk about how "bulk surveillance on U.S. citizens" is bad and a chance that it may one day be stopped or limited, spying on the rest of the world is not being discussed at all. It's not as you say:
        1. make them stop spying on US citizens
        2. make them stop spying on everyone else
        2 will never happen from within the U.S. Our own governments are the ones who have to protect our communications and, as I said, they have not expressed any willingness to do anything in that direction, which is sad.
        • by Kookus (653170)

          2 is all you get.
          Same as why U.S. citizens aren't asking other countries to stop spying on them. It's up to their government to prevent it. You know, sanctions and whatnot.

          Spying is fun, tons of people are doing it. You ever open up outlook and view someone else's calendar? ohhh yeah, spying! It's all in the game.

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      Maybe your own spy agencies need to man up.

    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:52PM (#47560163) Homepage

      Decentralized Internet is badly needed

      Very true, that is the only real solution to this problem. Whether corporations, governments, or criminals, the value in surveillance is too great to be resisted. The only solution is increasing the cost and detecting it when it happens. Decentralization will both make it more expensive to do generalized surveillance, and make it harder to do it without getting caught.

      and nothing seems to be in works...

      Not as true.

      OwnCloud [wikipedia.org] lets you host your own dropbox, mobile-to-desktop sync, etc.
      MediaGoblin [mediagoblin.org] lets you host your own replacement for YouTube.
      Asterisk [wikipedia.org] lets you host an end-to-end encrypted replacement for Skype.
      Tor [wikipedia.org] and I2P [wikipedia.org] let you slip past your ISP's surveillance net.

      That's just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more at Stop-Prism.org [stop-prism.org].

      • Isn't self-hosting a violation of most ISP EULAs?

        Ever wonder if maybe that rule has less to do with bandwidth and more to do with preventing the creation of a peer-to-peer, decentralized internet?

        Maybe I'm paranoid... but I became this way for a reason.

        • by Bob9113 (14996)

          Isn't self-hosting a violation of most ISP EULAs?

          I think so, if you have user-grade service, but I pay for a commercial-grade Internet connection that comes with a static IP for running services, and I run three hosted servers. Freedom isn't free (but it is a lot of fun). :)

          Ever wonder if maybe that rule has less to do with bandwidth and more to do with preventing the creation of a peer-to-peer, decentralized internet?

          I think there's some truth to that, if for no other reason than that the ISP probably woul

          • Isn't self-hosting a violation of most ISP EULAs?

            I think so, if you have user-grade service, but I pay for a commercial-grade Internet connection that comes with a static IP for running services, and I run three hosted servers. Freedom isn't free (but it is a lot of fun). :)

            You realize, of course, that a system where one only has "freedom" if they can afford to pay is anything but free, right?

      • by xfizik (3491039)
        I'd prefer a coordinated international effort to have more communications bypass the U.S. Many countries have laws against businesses abusing their monopolistic powers, yet the world has been content with the U.S. monopoly on the Internet control.
    • Spying on other nations is Constitutional; spying on Americans, without an explicit warrant, is not.

      In other words, it's perfectly legal for my nation's government to spy on you, but not on me. I understand your concern, but do not share it; rather, my concern is that the people in charge of our system of law don't seem to think the same laws apply to them, and that's a scary road to go down.

      Regardless, I do agree that if you're not worth spying on, then it's a phenomenal waste of resources to do so.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Minor correction, it is perfectly legal under US law and constitution to spy on other nations and their citizens (provided they are not in US controlled territories). It may be highly illegal under their laws and system of government.

        But yes, I otherwise completely agree. The people in charge of our system of law don't seem to think the same laws apply at all when they do not agree with them. For instance, instead of removing Marijuana from a schedule 1 drug and creating a law leaving it to the states, we a

        • by towermac (752159)

          Yeah, that's the worst damage; we're giving up the rule of law. The alternative is to live under the rule of men. Democracy, Republic, Dictatorship; no difference in them without the rule of law.

          And equality under the law. You must apply the law equally, to everyone. That way, if the law sucks, the people won't stand for it, and they'll get the law changed, one way or another.

      • A strict reading of the Constitution looks to outlaw searching anyone anywhere without a warrant, not just searching Americans. Might want to watch that slippery slope there, fella.
        • A strict reading of the Constitution looks to outlaw searching anyone anywhere without a warrant, not just searching Americans. Might want to watch that slippery slope there, fella.

          Incorrect.

          What you have to look at is what word the founders used to determine the scope; everywhere else in the document, the term, "the people" refers specifically to American citizens. If a provision is meant to apply to everyone in general, they used the words, "all persons" for covered actions, and "no persons" for things the government is prohibited from doing.

          You can see this difference between the 4th and 5th Amendments; the 4th reads

          "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, pa

    • by Ryanrule (1657199)

      um, the US WILL spy on non americans.
      there are several agencies devoted to that purpose.
      our constitution totally allows it.

      maybe talk to your own govt, and ask them why they share info with the US.
      whats that, they share info so they can stick their fingers in the US's hot apple pie of intelligence?
      deal with it.

      • by xfizik (3491039)
        I know your constitution allows it, that's pretty much the whole point of my original comment - you will deal with your government violating your constitution while my (and many other) government(s) doesn't give a shit about your country spying on our citizens. And you know why? Because we are "friends". One-way friends.
    • by metrix007 (200091)

      Well, yeah. Why should they?

      Spying is what countries do on each other, even friendly countries.

      I'd like to see a stop to agreements like the five eyes bullshit, and I don't think the NSA needs to archive every single goddamn email and telephone call....but intercepting communications of people from other countries if there is due cause?

      No issue what so ever.

      And, if you as a private citizen have an issue, you can double up on security because you should assume people are trying to listen regardless. Hell, ma

  • by stewsters (1406737) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:13PM (#47559827)
    While the changes are good, I do not think they go far enough.

    Allowing full monitoring from someone two hops away from a suspect still can involve a lot of people. What if a suspect were to call Time Warner, then I was to call the same number later that day? It could potentially be a very large number. Also what qualifies as being a suspect? It may be that there are a half million suspects, and a majority of the earth's population is two hops away.

    It also doesn't remove the First Amendment violations on the National Security Letters.
    • by towermac (752159)

      What does two hops mean, exactly?

      To me, it means they can monitor everyone the suspect contacts. Monitoring them, means listing who they talked to; that list of people, being the second hop. You can't monitor them, at least not on this warrant.

      Now, that's exactly what I expect them to do, if they are investigating a possible terrorist. You run that second hop list of names, and see if you hit on anybody else of interest. Maybe you already have a warrant on them. Maybe there's other probable cause. Maybe it

  • This is bullshit, what does the stinking government need beyond the information they force US citizens to fill out under penalty of law, out every 10 years its called the Census. We must start FORCING out elected officials to vote and act as we want them too. Not to do as there party dictates.
  • What's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:15PM (#47559853)

    It's pretty clear at this point that the executive branch can get away with completely ignoring any law they want, without actual repercussion.

    Congress fiddles while our separated-powers republic burns. I can't find words for how much I hate Congress and the President for this.

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      I can't find words for how much I hate Congress and the President for this.

      I can. But I'm afraid that if I use them in public, I could be put on the secret watch list [slashdot.org] and have to face extra scrutiny in every LEO encounter when "possible terrorist, report to FBI" pops up on their computer.

      Of course, that chilling effect means that the peaceful feedback mechanism that is supposed to moderate government overreach is being attenuated. When that moderation system is weakened, excesses grow. Fortunately, as The D

    • by Kookus (653170)

      Ok, so let's have them fail this bill. Would that make it better?

    • Congress fiddles while our separated-powers republic burns.

      Yea, well, if you little peons wouldn't bitch so goddamn much, we could already be on vacation! Fuckers.

      Sincerely (fuck you),
      Your "Representatives"

    • You'd suggest what? Cynicism is warranted with politics, but when it gets into resignation, then it's usually a contributor to the problem. People who would stand against the spying are too busy lamenting how the country is going to hell in a handbasket to actually demand something real. People who like their politics to be like a wrestling match in the meantime cheer on their team and let everything else get trampled.
      • We haven't had an election since the spying scandal broke. We haven't seen what kind of impact candidates' stances on spying will have on their electability. We also haven't seen the resolution of the EFF and ACLU lawsuits now that the leaks have provided standing.

        There are four boxes to use in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo. Use in that order. Right now we're still on soap. That's what we're doing right now. Bitching about it on the internet is our duty. We'll find out how well ballot works w

  • by Garfong (1815272) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:25PM (#47559937)

    Don't the NSA report, directly or indirectly, to the President? So if executive branch support a measure to limit bulk surveillance, couldn't they, of their own initiative, direct the appropriate agencies to cancel or modify the mass surveillance programs?

    • Sure but they can write one order that is public and countermand it with the next classified one so you need something from congress since we still can not make secret laws.

    • Yes they are really only part of the intelligence community and report to each other. Mass surveillance programs brings new funding and political standing in that growing community. To have data and present it before other agencies is the only political win. No more doing limited support work of other appropriate agencies, via mass surveillance programs they get to set and shape real missions.
      A change, new role, more power and more funding over other traditional agencies.
      The problem is nations or gro
    • Don't the NSA report, directly or indirectly, to the President? So if executive branch support a measure to limit bulk surveillance, couldn't they, of their own initiative, direct the appropriate agencies to cancel or modify the mass surveillance programs?

      Doing that would eliminate almost all support for passing a bill to prevent domestic spying. What happens after he leaves office?

  • doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trailer Trash (60756) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:26PM (#47559943) Homepage

    1. The President doesn't support this. He's the executive and is over the NSA. If he really wanted to stop bulk data collection he would simply call the NSA and say "hey, quit doing bulk collection". The law is needed specifically because he doesn't support it.

    2. Unless the law will include criminal penalties it's of no value. A cursory glance shows that it simply says "hey, don't do that" instead of "hey, don't do that, and if you do it'll be a class _ felony with a minimum penalty of ___". It's interesting how laws made to limit non-government workers *always* have the criminal penalties, and laws that are made to limit government workers always conveniently forget that part. When we start jailing people who break laws like this we'll start making headway.

    • by Ryanrule (1657199)

      is this a law or a funding thing?
      the prez can ask whatever he wants, congress has to fund it.

      ex: the consumer protection agency the white house wants and the repubs in the house raping themselves to stop it from happening.

    • I read through this bill, and not only do I find a lack of criminal penalties, I also don't find a means of independent confirmation of compliance, especially considering that these agencies have lied to Congress in the past. And, at the end of it, this bill extends the Patriot Act another two years from 2015 to 2017.

      I like the idea of having regular attempts at declassifying FISA court decisions, but it says "where possible" and doesn't say who gets to define what's possible. I have a feeling that "i
    • Can you support the assertion that the president can just make a call and it stops?

      If the NSA disagreed, or the DNI, or Presidential advisors, would they have to suck it up and stop?

      What happens 8 years later when he's no longer the president? We have had 8 years of a Democrat. It's almost guaranteed to be a Republican unless they put up yet another idiotically lame candidate. They are usually for this sort of thing, so in two years it magically comes back and then what happens to your argument?

    • by alexo (9335)

      Unless the law will include criminal penalties it's of no value.

      It's interesting how laws made to limit non-government workers *always* have the criminal penalties, and laws that are made to limit government workers always conveniently forget that part. When we start jailing people who break laws like this we'll start making headway.

      This. A 1000 times this!

  • by Bartles (1198017) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:26PM (#47559945)
    ...it's called the Bill of Rights.
  • um (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:28PM (#47559959)

    How about instead, we just pass a law clarifying that the constitution does indeed apply to algorithms?

    Just because a robot searched your car does not mean your car was not searched.

    i.e. A police officers doing:
    C:\directory search batch file.bat
    is no different than:
    C:\dir

    and really... that's what this all comes down to.

  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:34PM (#47560007)
    Big fucking deal; it was illegal before* and that sure as hell didn't stop them.

    Remember Bush pardoning the telcos for their fascist behavior?

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:40PM (#47560059) Homepage

    So this would:
    > prohibit the government from collecting all information from a particular service provider or a broad geographic
    > area, such as a city or area code

    Sounds rather specific. My bet is this was very carefully crafted, with help of the NSA to specifically and publically ban a slice of activities so narrow and specific as to stop NOTHING that they are currently doing.

  • by rossz (67331) <ogre@@@geekbiker...net> on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:44PM (#47560097) Homepage Journal

    Given that the executive branch, that being the POTUS, has never seen a surveillance law it didn't like, I seriously doubt this law would actually impede the government's lust for any and all information on the People.

    Besides, the actual implmentation of any law is always the exact opposite of the bill name. My guess, "The USA Freedom Act" means "freedom for the government to do whatever the fuck they want."

  • Smells like BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomkost (944194) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:54PM (#47560185)
    I'd like to see an analysis by EFF or ACLU. Laws these days are named so that people will think they do when thing when the often do something else or even the opposite of what they do. There's no details given. I'm betting there are no criminal penalties for breaking this new either. Without that, it's useless.
  • I can hear old Turtle-face McConnell now saying this is an election-year stunt by the Democrats to get votes. It's the same excuse he's used for filibustering other worthwhile Senate bills; never mind that it's a good idea and would be good for the country, it would make the Democrats look good and that'd cost Republicans elections, so they'll stop it from even coming to a vote.

    • never mind that it's a good idea and would be good for the country,

      Absolute malarkey.

      Congress is where good ideas go to die.

  • Wow! Really? We need a new law that is already covered, pretty fucking clearly, by the US Constitution's 4th Amendment:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    So, let me get this straight... the 4th Amendment needs

    • So, let me get this straight... the 4th Amendment needs additional "refinement" to put teeth in its bite

      I don't think it needs it, but adding, "under punishment of draw-and-quartering" to the end might cause the oligarchs to take note.

  • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @04:42PM (#47560605)

    This bill is entirely superficial. It's nice as a first step but the "two hops" bit makes it essentially meaningless pending further significant reform. It can be twisted to allow the level of surveillance we see today and it can be twisted that way in secret courts and closed meetings by bribed and blackmailed politicians. This is not the real reform that we need.

    Ends the secret courts. Ends the closed door meetings. Establishes new definitions, clear ones to be used across all laws to stop the bullshit about "keeping America safe" by abusing its freedom. We need real reform not this lip service for the masses shit.

    I would support a bill that

    • Does everything this bill does
    • Eliminates bullshit about hops, replacing it with a laborious per-item review and a per-item declassification requirement.
    • Requires judicial review by judges outside of the political process for every state secret
    • Guts the Patriot act
    • Recognizes metadata as private information when used in certain ways
    • Forces a real human to press the button on every bit of surveillance done eliminating dragnets.

    Hailing this as an effective law on its own is a mistake and the freedom of the United States is in serious jeopardy. Let's not step off that cliff.

    • We need mandatory disclosure of all Fisa warrants after 90 days. If they need it kept secret past that they can get a real judge to sign off on it. And any time the government asks a corporation for your data or meta-data you get notified unless there is a court order involved.
  • We need an official piece of legislation that specifically bans bulk collection of telephone records and internet data for U.S. citizens for plausible deniability.

    I'd feel so much safer.

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