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White House Pressures Legislators Into Gutting USA FREEDOM Act 284

The U.S. House of Representatives has substantially reduced the effectiveness of the USA FREEDOM Act, a surveillance reform bill that sought to end mass collection of U.S. citizens' data. House Leadership was pressured by the Obama Administration to weaken many of the bill's provisions. The EFF and the Center for Democracy & Technology had both given their backing to the bill earlier this month, but they've now withdrawn their support. CDT Senior Counsel Harley Geiger said, "The Leadership of the House is demonstrating that it wants to end the debate about surveillance, rather than end bulk collection. As amended, the bill may not prevent collection of data on a very large scale in a manner that infringes upon the privacy of Americans with no connection to a crime or terrorism. This is quite disappointing given the consensus by the public, Congress, the President, and two independent review groups that ending bulk collection is necessary."

Robyn Greene of the Open Technology Institute added, "We are especially disappointed by the weakening of the language intended to prohibit bulk collection of innocent Americans’ records. Although we are still hopeful that the bill’s language will end the bulk collection of telephone records and prevent indiscriminate collection of other types of records, it may still allow data collection on a dangerously massive scale. Put another way, it may ban ‘bulk’ collection of all records of a particular kind, but still allow for ‘bulky’ collection impacting the privacy of millions of people. Before this bill becomes law, Congress must make clear—either through amendments to the bill, through statements in the legislative record, or both—that mass collection of innocent people’s records isn’t allowed."
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White House Pressures Legislators Into Gutting USA FREEDOM Act

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  • by rritterson ( 588983 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:45PM (#47058613)

    There is an apparent and obvious change between pre-Presidential Obama's and Presidential Obama's actions and opinions on surveillance. What's the cause? Is it:

    1. Lobbying money from parties that gain from the intelligence industry?

    2. Access to top secret data that still hasn't been released showing a compelling need for this information gathering?

    3. Some sort of extortion/blackmail information on Obama possessed by someone in intelligence?

    4. A realization that most Americans don't actually care about the scope of surveillance, so he wants to appear "tough on terror"?

    5. Something else (fill in your own blank)

    Recall that he stated strongly that he thought AT&T should pay a legal penalty for the NSA/San Francisco wiretapping mess, then reversed his position and supported immunity for AT&T almost immediately after taking office. That suggests he either learned whatever it was very quickly, or was deceiving us as a candidate.

  • Pressure? (Score:5, Insightful)

    House Leadership was pressured by the Obama Administration to weaken many of the bill's provisions.

    Pressured how? They sent lots of Emails with "RE:" in the subject title? Many phone calls were made? The people who took you to lunch chuckled at public "hysteria"? Somebody insinuated they might have the ability to strike a committee to consider, in the fullness of time, whether pork due to your constituency -- if any -- might be placed under a possible pending review?

    Would the house leadership describe the "pressure" placed by the Administration as "Overwhelming", "Compelling", or merely "Gentle but Firm"? Which one of these do Legislators consider as an excuse to justify gutting the Act?

    The story is BS, and pure optics. The house leadership had no intention of passing the bill ungutted.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:48PM (#47058641) Journal

    I think you listed them in ascending order of likelihood.

    Maybe 5 is "he was just playing us for suckers on the campaign trail."

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:49PM (#47058653)

    Just in case you still thought the roots of fascism came from anything other than claiming to care about those they rule over - as the news about the freedom act being gutted shows.

    Liberal Fascism []

    Also think strongly on this the next time you do not vote Libertarian because it's a "wasted vote".

  • Re:Pressure? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xaedalus ( 1192463 ) <[Xaedalys] [at] []> on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:50PM (#47058677)
    Why would the House cave to the White House? Particularly the House Leadership? To Obama? Nahh... methinks they're using this as an excuse to gin up support, plus set up things for a Republican President.
  • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:52PM (#47058691) Homepage

    The House Leadership is all GOP. They've claimed that their number one priority is stopping whatever Obama wants. Mostly they've done that -- except on this one single thing, namely freedom online, they decide to roll over. So this serves as a pretty good test for both parties as to what their true priorities are.

    Obama's a pretty terrible President, but when push comes to shove it's a good check-in that the reason for that is that he really wants the same things as the GOP.

  • He Knows Power (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:53PM (#47058715)

    Recall that he stated strongly

    Recall that he states everything strongly, often against something he stated strongly before. Therefore only pay attention to what he does and you'll see the true picture.

    Extensive surveillance is not just great for catching terrorists, but finding out who is a conservative and what they are doing you can use the keep them quiet.

  • by qeveren ( 318805 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:55PM (#47058739)

    Well, political-spectrum-wise, Obama sits right where Saint Reagan does, so this isn't all that surprising.

  • by Anon-Admin ( 443764 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:04PM (#47058873) Journal

    I'd say if you have another 10-15 years of life left in you, you will, no matter where you live.

    I have heard that statement made many times over the last 30 years. It has yet to happen and I dont think it will.

    The truth is that Bush Sr, GW Bush, and Obama are all the same. There is no difference between Dem. and Rep. It all boils down to money and power, nether gives a S**T about the people.

      I only hope that some day enough people wake up and say F*** IT, then vote third party. I would love to see a three way tie or even a race between three parties that comes down to less than 1% difference.

  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:07PM (#47058907) Homepage
    He's just a politician, not a saint. They're all like that no matter which party they're in. Government's main concern is government; they couldn't care less about you or anybody else.

    The best you can do is vote for the lesser of evils. And please vote incumbents out of office. The longer they stay there, the more power hungry and corrupt they get.
  • by tranquilidad ( 1994300 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:24PM (#47059061)

    No, it's worse than that.

    Obama never really said anything of substance. He said many things that led people to believe they heard what they wanted to hear; a classic move by a flim-flam man.

    A friend of mine used to be in the stock market and people would ask him, "What's the market going to do tomorrow?"

    His stock reply was, "A lot of people are going to be surprised."

    The number of people who thought he actually told them something was shocking. Obama was the same. He said a lot of things were bad but never said what he would do instead. He used the ultimate echo-chamber, a biased media, to say things for him that he never said.

  • by Jeff Flanagan ( 2981883 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:25PM (#47059069)
    I understand your assumption, usually a bill with a name like the USA FREEDOM act is about taking away freedom.
  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:25PM (#47059075)

    Listen, Republican. President Dick Cheney's himbo proxy was bad. Barak "No Change" Obama is bad too. Fucking deal with it.

    As for me, I don't vote for either party, and haven't for a long time. I despise them both. I also hate people like you, who think that everyone is bad except YOUR party. People like you are the problem. You're just the dumb asshole wearing the "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Kodos!" t-shirt.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:28PM (#47059097) Journal

    The difference is that now we have a whole generation that is unemployed on a massive scale, with inequality and automation sqeezing the populace ever tighter, and computer models telling us that the shit is indeed going to hit the fan: []

    If you even skim defense news you'll also see that the US military is putting a lot of priority on "handling" unrest inside the US.

  • Re:But, but, BUT! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:39PM (#47059239) Homepage

    Because it doesn't make any sense. When has Obama had any influence over the Republican controlled House?

  • Re:Pressure? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:40PM (#47059255)

    1. The president wont endorse you in the next election.
    2. The president will veto all your bills
    3. The president will blame future terrorist attacks on you.
    4. The president will move future defense contracts out of your state.
    5. The president wont invite you to the whitehouse for photo ops.
    6. The president will show up in your home town next time you're supposed to give a speech before an election, stealing the show and making all your voters forget about you.
    7. Maybe you'd like to see YOUR NSA file Mr Congressman?

    I could go on, but I'm tired of typing. He's the most powerful man in the world. He could literally ruin the careers of most congressmen, especially democrats, on a whim. The more powerful members of the House and Senate maybe not, but the rank and file? It'd be a joke.

    It's the presidents job to do this. I don't blame him for that. I do, however, blame him for being wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:56PM (#47059397)

    This is a choice?????

  • by Calibax ( 151875 ) * on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:01PM (#47059451)

    The GOP has made it very, very clear that anything that Obama favors will automatically receive a negative from the House of Representatives that they control. They have done this multiple times. They have openly stated that their primary objective is to oppose Obama on everything.

    Now I'm supposed to believe that Obama pressured the GOP to weaken the bill? That seems... laughable. The GOP would never bow to Obama's requests - they have their image to consider. It seems more likely that the GOP revised the bill because Obama said he supported it in its original form.

    It's also strange that the mainstream press doesn't seem to have picked up on such a monumental achievement by Obama. I'd have expected that any such successful pressure from the White House on the GOP would be a major headline in most newspapers that cover US national politics. But the best we get is a press release from the Center for Democracy and Technology. The EFF also had a press release about the amendments to the bill but they don't suggest that the White House or Obama was generating any pressure for the changes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:22PM (#47059707)

    Liberals 2008: "Bush is a liar! Obama will tell the truth!"
    Liberals 2014: "All politicians lie."

  • by Terwin ( 412356 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:42PM (#47059979)

    political-spectrum-wise, Obama sits right where Saint Reagan does

    I'm surprised how many people refuse to admit this...

    Reduced the number of tax brackets and substantially reduced the top marginal rate
    Increased defense spending
    Strongly opposed the USSR and 'damn commies' world wide
    Used the cold-war arms race(including threats of the 'star wars' system) to bankrupt the USSR and remove them from 'World Power' status
    Stood by Americas international allies and faced down potential threats, even if it meant American boots on the ground
    Tried to unite the country with patriotism
    Repeatedly took his case to the American people to get them to change the votes of their legislators(explaining his position and why it was the right thing to do)
    Took a stagnant economy and promoted growth(mostly through lower taxes and consumer confidence)

    Tax increases on 'the wealthiest Americans' to pay for various programs(including ACA)
    Is pumping money into the stock market(either to hide the state of the economy or pay-off contributors, not sure which)
    Is standing by while Putin re-builds the USSR
    Draws 'red lines' or promotes hash-tags whenever there is something bad happening, but does not back them up.
    Puts American diplomats in harms way to prove terrorism is gone, then blames a video when the terrorists show they are not gone
    Tries to divide the country with racism(Rev. Al Sharpton; New Black Panthers; Prof. Gates; etc)
    Repeatedly changed laws passed by the house and senate by either refusing to enforce them(border/immigration; Black Panther voter intimidation) or delaying enforcement(ACA) under his own authority
    Repeatedly lied about his signature legislation to protect it from being seen for what it is.
    Took a growing economy and promoted stagnation(mostly through uncertainty and higher taxes intermingled with one time give-aways to buy votes)

    Admittedly, they both promoted growth in the stock market, even if Regan did it through growth and Obama is doing it through government backed bonds.
    Aside from that, I just do not see it.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @04:53PM (#47060123)
    Reading through his recent comments, it does look like he's conservative, but you're presenting a false dichotomy. Saying "The Obama administration is doing this" doesn't mean "You should have voted for McCain and Romney."

    It's worth pointing out that McCain seems to be more critical of the NSA than Obama does. I don't doubt that if McCain got elected president, the roles would be reversed, but Obama IS standing up more for the NSA spying program than McCain is, that much is clear.

    I agree with you that both parties are to blame, but I think "fuck them both" isn't the only way out of this situation. I personally think that if we all bothered to vote in the primaries, in EITHER primary, many political problems attributed to the two party system would vanish quickly. SEVENTEEN PERCENT [] of eligible voters nominated the candidates last time. For some reason, it's only the whackos that bother voting in the primaries. The tea partiers are the only ones participating, and then the rest of us can't figure out why they're being taken seriously by washington. It's certainly not because they have such good ideas, it's because they vote in the primaries. The anti-NSA crowd could and should do the same thing. Vote in the primaries, nominate candidates to both parties who oppose the NSA. It's not genetically encoded into either party to be in favor of big brother.
  • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:08PM (#47060299)

    "Do you really want us to have to blame you if there is another terrorist attack?" Scares the shit out of any politician.

    Political squabbles aside, if Benghazi is any indication for how Washing treats information it receives about actual terror threats (as opposed to just imagined ones) then the NSA spying doesn't even serve its supposed purpose anyways. That is to say, they were well aware in advance that something was going to happen, and deliberately chose not to act on it. Meanwhile we have to have our domestic IT industry is being crushed (e.g. Cisco losing foreign customers) and businesses like Lavabit forced to close because we absolutely MUST have this spying program to gather information that we don't even bother to use correctly.

    Ditto for the Boston bomber (another incident which we had intelligence on before the fact, but didn't act on, and we didn't even need a spying program to obtain this information.)

    Though as a direct response to your question, if Benghazi is any indication, then instead of identifying incidents as a straight up terror attack for the politicians to be held accountable for, they'll simply find something innocuous to blame it on (in this case a poorly made movie that nobody gives a shit about.)

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @05:56PM (#47060747) Homepage

    I'm an independent voter, and I voted for Obama, because the alternative was worse. I am not happy with his performance on this and several other important policy areas, but he has done a much better job than McCain/Palin would have, IMHO. What frustrates me is that my friends in both parties never seem to be interested in the primary elections (I will register democrat or republican as needed to sway the primary I think most needs swaying), and also seem to think that it's all on Obama. Note TFA, which puts at least half the blame on Congress, where it belongs. We elect Congress too. And yet so very few people bother to show up for mid-term elections, and we wind up with radical nutballs as a result.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay