Yesterday the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to strip the NSA of some of its powers to gather data on unwilling and unknowing citizens here and across the globe. On the surface, the bill, titled the “USA Freedom Act” seems to be a huge win for privacy & liberty advocates.
“This is the end of secret laws,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the author of the original Patriot Act, who said he felt betrayed by the way the government used that law. “We have turned the tables on the NSA, and say we are watching you — and we will.”
However, between the committee’s review and the vote there were concessions made, and alterations to the bill were applied behind closed doors. Unfortunately, these last minute changes lifted NSA restraints built into the original bill and reinstated the majority of the NSA’s snooping ability. The bill was voted on just two days after these changes, which is contrary to the three day minimum that was supposed to be the new standard. And that’s highly troubling.
From the Ron Paul Institute:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) explained on the House floor that back room machinations changed the bill between the votes approving it in the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and the bill’s consideration on the House floor. These shenanigans outside the routine committee process, Lofgren explains, made meaningless some restraints on US government mass spying contained in the bill. Lofgren states:
After [the USA Freedom Act] was reported out unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee, certain key elements of this bill were changed. I think it’s ironic that a bill that was intended to increase transparency was secretly changed between the committee markup and floor consideration, and it was altered in worrisome ways.
Lofgren proceeds to explain that, under the bill, mass spying may be justifiable in multiple geographic areas including areas as large as an entire state or even the southern or eastern United States, meaning the bill does not stop the mass spying from continuing throughout the entire United States.
Lofgren also notes that all nine of her amendments were ruled out of order. In fact, no amendments at all were considered during the House floor debate.
Even when we win, we lose. The State runs this country like a giant casino. All of us are playing to win, but the deck is stacked against us and the house always comes out on top. The eye in the sky is always watching and the State has ample Pit Bosses to assure that none of us get out of hand. Welcome to the United States. The all you can eat buffet is fantastic.
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