On Tuesday the House of Representatives gutted the so-called USA Freedom Act designed to curb surveillance abuse by the NSA.
The version that emerged from Rules Committee is substantially different than the version approved by the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees two weeks ago. The watered down and weakened version is the result of the Obama administration leaning on House leaders behind closed doors.
“The USA FREEDOM Act had previously passed through two committees before being secretly watered down behind closed doors,” notes Amie Stepanovich, Senior Policy Counsel at Access, a digital rights organization. “The version we fear could now be negotiated in secret and introduced on the House floor may not move us forward on NSA reform.”
“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,” the New America Foundation writes in a statement.
“The Leadership of the House is demonstrating that it wants to end the debate about surveillance, rather than end bulk collection,” said Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “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.”
The gutting of the USA Freedom Act was virtually ignored by the establishment media – and for good reason: the national security state needs all-encompassing surveillance to retain its hold on power.
A document released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the real reason the national security state has built and continues to build an unprecedented surveillance grid. “It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express ‘radical’ ideas and who have a ‘radicalizing’ influence on others,” writes Glenn Greenwald for The Guardian.
Because the NSA targets “broad categories of people,” it is capable and willing to conduct surveillance on “anyone anywhere, including in the US, whose ideas the government finds threatening,” Greenwald notes.
Obama and the establishment media routinely criticize the panopticon surveillance state, but such criticism is less than worthless. The Obama administration, as noted above, has worked behind closed doors to make sure any legislation designed to rollback NSA violations of the Constitution and the privacy of the American people is seriously weakened.