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Government Democrats Privacy Republicans United States

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives 121

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that after more than a decade of wrenching national debate over the intrusiveness of government intelligence agencies, a bipartisan wave of support has gathered to sharply limit the federal government's sweeps of phone and Internet records. A bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the metadata surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of a 25-2, and is heading to almost certain passage in the House of Representatives. An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act. "It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security."

The Patriot Act is up for its first reauthorization since the revelations about bulk data collection. The impending June 1 deadline for reauthorization, coupled with an increase of support among members of both parties, pressure from technology companies and a push from the White House, have combined to make changes to the provisions more likely. The Snowden disclosures, along with data breaches at Sony Pictures, Target and the insurance giant Anthem, have unsettled voters and empowered those in Congress arguing for greater civil liberties protection — who a few years ago "could have met in a couple of phone booths," says Senator Ron Wyden. The Freedom Act very nearly passed both chambers of Congress last year, but it failed to garner the 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. It fell short by two votes.

However some say the bill doesn't go far enough. The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists. It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019. "This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards," says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform."
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NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives

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  • "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act.

    Well, according to New York Times [nytimes.com]:

    Under the bipartisan bills in the House and Senate, the Patriot Act would be changed to prohibit bulk collection, and sweeps that had operated under the guise of so-called National Security Letters issued by the F.B.I. would end. The data would instead be stored by the phone companies themselves [emphasis mine -mi], and could be accessed by intelligence agencies only after approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

    I'm not sure, we gained all that much here...

    • by koan ( 80826 ) on Friday May 01, 2015 @10:23AM (#49593143)

      No we didn't.
      It's a way for the government services to obey laws which private companies will not have to obey, and corps will include this in the TOS that everyone agrees to without reading.

      • by debrain ( 29228 )

        corps will include this in the TOS that everyone agrees to without reading

        With the law in place, including it in the TOS would be superfluous.

        • by koan ( 80826 )

          Do you have the portion of the law that states this unambiguously?

          • Ever seen a law that wasn't unambiguous?
            • by koan ( 80826 )

              Thou shalt not murder.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Thou shalt not murder.

                Violated regularly by Uncle Sam's America. In a few cases, it's via the death penalty without verification. In the majority of cases, it's via MQ-1 Predator [wikipedia.org] and/or MQ-9 Reaper [wikipedia.org] and the many murderers who remotely pilot them.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                "...unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." - Voltaire

                • by koan ( 80826 )

                  Or my favorite...

                  Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius - Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His”

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]

                  When they discovered, from the admissions of some of them, that there were Catholics mingled with the heretics they said to the abbot “Sir, what shall we do, for we cannot distinguish between the faithful and the heretics.” The abbot, like the others, was afraid that many, in fear of death, would pretend to be Catholics, and after their departure, would return to their heresy, and is said to have replied “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius - Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Tim. ii. 19) and so countless number in that town were slain.[5][6]

      • It doesn't matter if I read the fine print in the TOS of my ISP or not. If they are all going to be mandated to collect/store this stuff, then there are no options to NOT agree to the TOS without giving up internet connectivity altogether as well as cell phones. Its not like if you fond it in the tos fine print you can choose a different ISP that wont do it. Our ISP choices are already limitedas it is, so if you want internet, you'll have to agree to it period.
        • by koan ( 80826 )

          It does matter that you read something before agreeing to it, but I understand what you mean.

          In some cases, if you had money, time and lawyers you might be able to challenge things like this, or 2 year phone contracts etc, because all of them take advantage of the very thing you mentioned... lack of choice.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course we did. Now when the NSA wants to secretly spy on us, they have to illegally get the data from a different building.

    • So, what would make you happy? If they need a warrant (from the FISA court) to access the data (just like previously), how is it not abbiding by the fourth amendment?

      Would you prefer that law enforcement/spy agencies had to be fully tied and unable to conduct investigations?

      • If they need a warrant (from the FISA court) to access the data (just like previously)

        Well, if you put the "just like previously" part into your own post, then we aren't disagreeing, that this is not much of an improvement — and that was my premise.

        That agreement now established, let's move on to what's wrong with the existing Act — and what's likely to remain wrong even after the proposed amendments are passed...

        And the problem with FISA-court is that — unlike all other courts — it does not hear both sides [cbsnews.com]. They may deny the rubber-stamp allegations [washingtonpost.com], but they have only rejected 11 surveillance requests out of 33900 [motherjones.com] submitted since the court's inception to 2013...

        how is it not abiding by the fourth amendment?

        I said nothing about the Forth Amendment, actually. Whether it even applies to one's communications is no immediately obvious. No, my claim is not whether Patriot Act violates the Constitution, but whether or not the upcoming changes to it constitute a discernible improvement.

        Would you prefer that law enforcement/spy agencies had to be fully tied and unable to conduct investigations?

        I would prefer, that the government had no way to force private companies to preemptively record data about me just in case it may be needed by some future investigation.

        Without being so forced, some companies may still prefer to do it seeking your business and others may choose not to seeking that of libertines. The existing regulatory mandate — cooperate with the FBI or else — troubles me greatly, and should trouble everyone...

      • the fisa court is a new addition to the judicial system and has never been tested in the supreme court. I would argue that the FISA court does not satisfy the due process requirements in the fifth amendments and are basically rubberstamped warrants.

      • law enforcement is a joke, in the US. its about power, greed, money grabs, politics and racism.

        I'll go on record saying: we could end all 'LE' for a full year and we would not even notice any change in our daily lives. except maybe some of us would NOT be hassled, shot, tased or framed.

        I find the whole 'law enforcement' system a pathetic joke. if I'm in trouble, the LAST person I could call is a cop. so, if they all went away and never came back, I would never notice.

        they don't really investigate things,

    • by L4m3rthanyou ( 1015323 ) on Friday May 01, 2015 @12:53PM (#49594595)

      Smells like plausible deniability to me.

      Up to now, we've seen plenty of evidence that the intelligence agencies don't seem to have major qualms about violating US law, as long as it's done quietly. Who's going to prosecute? This is just Congress realizing that it does not need to take the political heat for broad surveillance that it authorized. Once in place, NSA will happily continue the operations without overt permission to do so.

      People who are high up in government intelligence are going to bank on not being caught performing illegal surveillance over not being taken to task over the first thing they "miss" due to inadequate coverage.

    • by bouldin ( 828821 )

      I'm not sure, we gained all that much here...

      Learn to use commas, jackass. That comma changed the semantics of your sentence.

  • when the democrats and republicans are voted out.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      when the democrats and republicans are voted out

      Thousands of years of coercive authority called, and they're rolling on the floor laughing.

    • More so when they're arrested, convicted for treason, and jailed for a really long time; along with their corporate dog buyers. Add to this, their ill-gotten millions which should be turned over to the people of these united States. I suggest the money go to clearing up the student loan debacle.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday May 01, 2015 @10:35AM (#49593245)

    >> also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019

    This should be the headline: Bipartisan bill renews Patriot Act for four years, with minor tweaks

    In fact, I think there's really no reform. From TFA:
    "data would instead be stored by the phone companies themselves, and could be accessed by intelligence agencies only after approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court"

    Um...guess what happens as soon as this bill is passed? "Hey Obama, er, I mean secret court, can we please continue access all the data from those boxes we installed at the phone companies again? Of course? Well, thanks!"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The NSA doesn't operate with the executive branch's permission. They don't answer to any specific branch. They are their own entity. But please blame all of your misunderstandings on our black president.

  • It's the "Secret Law" part that has my attention.
  • "the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards"
    He's right. Providing material support to terrorists should be legal.
    I mean seriously, is he dumb or something?
  • Cost (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Livius ( 318358 ) on Friday May 01, 2015 @10:53AM (#49593391)

    The only meaningful change will be phone companies adding an extra data storage fee to phone bills. They'll probably call themselves heroes for safeguarding private data from the government, who now will only be able to access the data on demand.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday May 01, 2015 @10:56AM (#49593413) Homepage

    The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency

    the average age of a congress critter is 62. These politicians still believe things like communism and the war on drugs are legitimate aspects of foreign and domestic policy, not just ginned up talking points from the administrations they floated.

    and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists.

    Queue the age range again. at 62 the greyhairs on the senate and house floors respond more to "isms" like communism, socialism, and terrorism than they do independent research from political and social scientists. To them, politics is established cannon and they discern that which is sacrosanct and true from that which is patently false over a medium rare tenderloin.

    It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019.

    Blame George Bush, but really blame politicians for making a bill thats toxic to democracy but even more toxic to repeal. Im certain you could find more than half of the house or senate willing to repeal a bill called the "spy on all people forever and build a torture prison" act, but you wont find so much as a ball of pocket lint in the carpet willing to touch "patriot" act. We've built a genuine third-rail that isnt getting dismantled until it zaps the ever-loving fuck out of someone with more brass than sense.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Look how the "Affordable Care Act" was re-branded by the Republicans to "ObamaCare" (thought that didn't quite work out). Perhaps we need to persistently and aggressively refer to these laws as the "Spy & Torture Act" instead of the "Patriot Act". Better yet....let's just call it the "Unpatriotic Spy & Torture Act"!

  • levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists

    Providing material support to terrorists should be illegal. That the concept can be abused by aggressive prosecutors is obviously a problem, but then any legal concept can be abused. I had a friend who is known as a kind and gentle soul, who was seen being attacked by a woman who rushed him and assaulted him and was prosecuted for assault and battery because he pushed her away from him. Pushed, not body slammed. So should we get ri

  • If someone is providing "material support" to terrorists then fuck them. Lets say Osama bin ladin is living in my house and I know it is him... and I and feeding him and giving him cover. That is an example of material support. If you're doing that... then allow me to say on behalf of the American people, that you can eat all the fucking dicks.

    Exactly why is this a bad thing? I don't get it. Someone explain this to me?

    Does material support not mean what I think it means? I don't understand.

    • It's because there's currently a rather pronounced backlash against all anti-terrorist provisions right now, because politicians and three-letter agencies keep using it as a "sky is falling, please cede more of your freedoms, privacy, and dignity to the state" excuse. And people are tired of it.

      Yes, punishment for "material support" of terrorism is fine in theory, but only if you trust the government to justly apply that charge. And trust in the government is in short supply these days, at least among som

      • That's fine, I think I saw someone else say they felt the definition of material support was too vague. I think that's a valid complaint. I'd like an example of it being misused though so I know it isn't just a theoretical problem.

    • If you have to ask this question, then the likely answer is no. We cannot explain it to you. The fact that this is a nebulous contrived term it will be twisted to mean whatever suits the agency needs du jour.

      You see the NSA isn't collecting data on millions of Americans... The collection happens when the NSA reads the collected err. captured data.

      Of course since there is an algorithm that sorts the data and no human touches it, then they can analyze it without fear of collecting err. reading your data.. no

      • First off, any objection you can't explain has no business being in a court of law or a legislature.

        So either be able to explain it or shut the fuck up because you literally nothing to contribute.

        Second off, you did actually explain your problem... you just were so busy trying to claim superiority that you didn't realize you contradicted yourself. You say the term is nebulous. THAT is a relevant complaint. You want a more specific definition for the offense. That is ENTIRELY reasonable.

        Can you give me an ex

        • You said it best when you said you don't understand. If you can't define what material support mean in its fullest geometry then why would you feel safe accepting it as in your best interests.

          "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The 'material support law' – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact

          • I didn't say I didn't understand. I asked why you felt it was a problem. I feel I understand what material support means. The term doesn't seems vague to me at all. I know material support when I see it and I know when I don't.

            As to human rights groups working with terrorist groups, the issue is that a fair number of them are fronts. The Palestinians are big fans of using charity and relief groups to mask the logistics for their terrorist networks. So giving charity groups a pass is not acceptable without s

    • If someone is providing "material support" to terrorists then fuck them. Lets say Osama bin ladin is living in my house and I know it is him... and I and feeding him and giving him cover. That is an example of material support. If you're doing that... then allow me to say on behalf of the American people, that you can eat all the fucking dicks.

      Exactly why is this a bad thing? I don't get it. Someone explain this to me?

      Does material support not mean what I think it means? I don't understand.

      Well, here's what it means according to law. [cornell.edu]

      However, whether something counts as "material support" or not is, well, up to interpretation, [aclu.org] as has been noted [ispu.org] by a number of people. [pbs.org]

      • It is a requirement that you know they're bad people. So in the case of your charity example, you'd have to show that whomever you wanted to charge with this knew the money was going to terrorists.

        • It is a requirement that you know they're bad people. So in the case of your charity example, you'd have to show that whomever you wanted to charge with this knew the money was going to terrorists.

          Actually, I didn't give any examples, I gave a bunch of links. In the case of Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project [wikipedia.org], the Supreme Court held that

          As to the particular speech plaintiffs propose to undertake, it is wholly foreseeable that directly training the PKK on how to use international law to resolve disputes would provide that group with information and techniques that it could use as part of a broader strategy to promote terrorism, and to threaten, manipulate, and disrupt. Teaching the PKK to petition in

          • Your example is very poor because you've not kept clear in your mind the criteria of the law.

            The issue is helping a criminal element. That includes helping them by giving them medicine or helping them by giving them food or in this case helping them petition international bodies for aid.

            The law doesn't stipulate that some kinds of help for terrorist groups are okay and some are not. It says helping them is wrong.

            Lets say Zombie Osama Bin Ladin comes back and is up to his old tricks. And amongst his little p

            • The issue is helping a criminal element. That includes helping them by giving them medicine or helping them by giving them food or in this case helping them petition international bodies for aid.

              The law doesn't stipulate that some kinds of help for terrorist groups are okay and some are not. It says helping them is wrong.

              Then I, at least, consider the law wrong, if it says that help to allow an organization to attempt to achieve goals such as rights for Kurds within Turkey [wikipedia.org] or an independent state for Tamils [wikipedia.org] without resorting to violence is wrong. I do not think helping them in that fashion is inherently wrong. That's what was being argued in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project.

              • Okay, lets say we're fighting Nazi germany and you're going to run a charity in the US to send medical supplies to starving orphans in Germany that have suffered because of American bombing.

                Do you think the US government is going to let you do that?

                If you want a closer apples to apples comparision... lets say you're helping the nazis file legal challenges against the US war against Nazi Germany... See?

                It all applies.

                Look, I feel for the Kurds. They should really have their own country. But our alliance with

                • Okay, lets say we're fighting Nazi germany and you're going to run a charity in the US to send medical supplies to starving orphans in Germany that have suffered because of American bombing.

                  Do you think the US government is going to let you do that?

                  No, but that's a different case. Quite apart from the fact that the Third Reich was a nation-state whilst neither the PKK nor the Tamil Tigers are, and that we're not at war with either of those organizations (aside from being "at war" with "terrorism"), what the Humanitarian Law project in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project said they wanted to do was "[trainin] PKK members to use international law to resolve disputes peacefully; [teach] PKK mem- bers to petition the United Nations and other representative [supremecourt.gov]

                  • Please don't be obtuse, it makes it hard to have a productive discussion. If I used Osama bin ladin instead of nazi germany how would anything have changed?

                    As to whether we are personally at war with these people, we are allied with people that are and thus it doesn't really matter.

                    The Turks view them as terrorists and we have an obligation on pain of them refusing to cooperate with us to treat the kurds as our enemies.

                    That said, we generally cooperate as little as possible. As to the tigers, they assassina

                    • Please don't be obtuse, it makes it hard to have a productive discussion. If I used Osama bin ladin instead of nazi germany how would anything have changed?

                      Not much, as neither example addresses the main point I was making, namely that the HLP wished to engage in an activity that one could reasonably consider not supportive of terrorism.

                      As to whether we are personally at war with these people, we are allied with people that are and thus it doesn't really matter.

                      The Turks view them as terrorists and we have an obligation on pain of them refusing to cooperate with us to treat the kurds as our enemies.

                      Presumably meaning "to treat the PKK as our enemies".

                      Regardless, if we accept that they're terrorists then we can't help them. They have to stop.

                      Can American organizations at least try to convince them to stop and offer them advice on how to press their cause peacefully?

                      As to their objectives, it is dangerous to take their word for it.

                      To whose objectives are you referring? The organizations deemed terrorist, or organizations such as the HLP?

                      Terrorists are very happy to say that a box is full of baby milk one moment and then use that same box full of "baby milk" to blow up a bus later. So you can't believe their position outright because they lie.

                      As do, of course, states.

                      It is possible they just wanted to create political problems for their enemies by bringing in international authorities.

                      What sort of pol

                    • As to them not supporting terrorism... they were helping terrorists. You argue that you're helping them be peaceful but how has that worked out for the Palestinians? ehm? Most of the peace talks are just excuses to call a cease fire while the terrorists rearm.

                      Maybe it is me, but I am very cynical about terrorists asking for peace and I'd need a gesture of peace from them. They'd have to give something up. Maybe a big weapons cache or something. Short of that, I would have a hard time taking it seriously an

  • The US government has been breaking laws for years with no consequences. Why would this law be any different?

  • ...but I have a feeling that I will come away feeling that nothing covered in it actually means jack shit.

  • of pride is pretty much automatically going to be some of the worst shit imaginable (having not read either the article nor the bill).

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 01, 2015 @01:39PM (#49594965) Homepage

    "It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019."

    No. let that fucking thing die. The PATRIOT ACT and those that support it are enemies of the american people.

  • I was wrong, no hope for humanity.
  • Since there doesn't seem to be any effective oversight of the NSA (or CIA) or any actual consequences when they break the law, why would anyone seriously expect the NSA would actually stop mass collection or even give a shit about this bill passing?

    The expensive mass-surveilance mechanisms and technologies are already developed and in place. Unless all the secret data centres and backbone taps are identified and physically destroyed in front of independent monitors, There's not a hope in hell that the NSA a

    • I'd go one further.

      like we have 'independant auditors' who inspect WMDs, we would need some rival country (not UN, UN is fucking worthless) to come in and 'inspect' us for compliance.

      OF COURSE we can't trust ourselves. the foxes are really bad at guarding the chicken coop...

      imagine that, though; what a world wide headline that would be! "amercia agreed to disarm from its worldwide mass surveillance and will be audited to ensure its real by country X Y and Z"

      bzzzt. is that my morning alarm? is it take to

  • ...I'll go get the Vaseline.
  • The NSA is already ignoring the plain language of the fourth amendment, and they'll ignore this law too, if it passes. The only effective remedy is to disband the agency and prosecute every last person involved with their crimes.

    -jcr

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