While it is an improvement on previous legislation, the Senate bill aimed at cracking down on NSA data collection, unveiled this week by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, will not stop the spy agency from accessing the communications of Americans.
Analysis of the so called USA Freedom Act reveals that the bill will still provide NSA spies access to the data of every phone call that is made to and from the US. In addition, the probable-cause standard under the Fourth Amendment is still not present in the legislation.
In essence, the NSA will still be able to circumvent Constitutional protections, meaning that the bill does not go far enough, as far as some privacy advocates are concerned.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who have both been extremely critical of the NSA’s practices, said the bill was a “vast improvement” from previous legislation, but noted that it could still be used to spy on Americans via foreign intelligence authority.
Wyden and Udall released a statement Tuesday, noting that they will seek to strengthen the bill with an amendment to close the significant backdoor search “loophole” which allows for warrantless searches of Americans communications data.
The Senators pointed to a recent report from the director of national intelligence which noted “the NSA, CIA and FBI conduct warrantless searches of communications of Americans that are swept up under this authority.”
Under the new bill, NSA and CIA would not be prevented from conducting back door searches, and would only be required to count the number of times they do it, and report to Congress. The bill completely exempts the FBI from the reporting requirement despite the fact that the director of National intelligence James Clapper admitted that the FBI’s use of back door searches is substantial.
“Congress needs to close this loophole, and we look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and our colleagues to address this issue when the bill comes before the full U.S. Senate,” the Senators said.
While expressing support for the bill, the ACLU admitted that it’s “not perfect.”
“The Senate bill is an improvement over the version passed by the House, but problems remain.” a statement reads. “It is important that the public understand that there is much more work to be done to narrow the government’s overbroad surveillance authorities to bring them in line with our Constitution and values. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have miles left to go.”
The so called ‘metadata’ of communication that the NSA has had unrestricted access to includes names and phone numbers of both callers, locations including zip codes, the time the call was made and how long it lasted, international mobile subscriber identity numbers of mobile callers, and calling card numbers.
The new legislation will ensure that the data is stored not by the government, but by the communications companies, a move that could present its own problems.
In order to access the information, the NSA would be required to ask the secret FISA court to retrieve the information from telcos. The NSA would only have to explain why they believe it may be terrorism related. Protections under the Fourth Amendment would still not be adhered to.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.