Nearly six months after Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency's massive violations of civil liberties, Congress is considering what to do about it.
Dianne Feinstein has just pushed an NSA-friendly bill through the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she chairs. The bill "is a big step backwards for privacy," says ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson. It would "entrench the current spying programs and give them explicit Congressional authorization to continue."
Senator Feinstein's bill "would make clear in no uncertain terms that communication records like phone, email, and internet data can be collected without even an ounce of suspicion, pursuant to the so-called privacy rules already in place," Richardson points out. And: "For the first time in history, Congress would explicitly and intentionally authorize dragnet domestic spying programs targeting every day Americans."
Fortunately, there's a major alternative gaining momentum -- a bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner.
As the Los Angeles Times noted in a recent editorial, "the Leahy-Sensenbrenner bill would allow the government to acquire phone data only as part of an investigation tied to a specific suspected terrorist or foreign agent or an individual in contact with him. Bulk collection would end."
The Leahy-Sensenbrenner bill -- dubbed the USA FREEDOM Act -- is a real step toward fully ending the NSA's outrageous abuses. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has provided this assessment:
"If passed, we believe this bill would be a substantial improvement to America's laws regarding mass surveillance. … However, we consider this bill to be a floor, not a ceiling. The bill only touches on a few of the issues surrounding the NSA's invasive and unconstitutional surveillance. There are a variety of improvements that can and should be made to ensure the bill actually reins in the NSA and is less susceptible to being undermined by aggressive legal arguments in the FISA court or elsewhere.
"We know that no bill is perfect, but the USA FREEDOM Act could well be our best shot at fixing some of the worst problems with NSA surveillance. That's why we're urging members of Congress to support the bill, work to improve the bill through the amendment process, and above all to resist efforts to undermine the privacy protections offered by the bill."
In the next minute, you can do two important things to strike a blow against NSA surveillance:
* Forward this email to people you know.
-- The RootsAction.org team
P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.
Los Angeles Times editorial: NSA's metadata program: End it, don't mend it
Michelle Richardson, ACLU: Feinstein's NSA bill shows she doesn't have a clue about intelligence reform
Trevor Timm, Electronic Frontier Foundation: Sen. Dianne Feinstein's New NSA Bill Will Codify and Extend Mass Surveillance of Americans
Marcy Wheeler, EmptyWheel.net: Leahy-Sensenbrenner Would Shut the Section 702 Cybersecurity Loophole