Google, Facebook Warn NSA Bill Wouldn’t Stop Mass Surveillance

Several powerful tech companies join a chorus of privacy groups withdrawing support for the USA Freedom Act — which the House will vote on Thursday.

A computer workstation bears the National Security Agency (NSA) logo inside the Threat Operations Center inside the Washington suburb of Fort Meade, Maryland, intelligence gathering operation 25 January 2006 after US President George W. Bush delivered a speech behind closed doors and met with employees in advance of Senate hearings on the much-criticized domestic surveillance. 
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
May 21, 2014, 1:36 p.m.

A day be­fore the House will vote on a ma­jor bill de­signed to rein in gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, a group of blue-chip tech firms are warn­ing that the meas­ure falls far short of what is ad­vert­ised.

The Re­form Gov­ern­ment Sur­veil­lance co­ali­tion — whose mem­bers in­clude Google, Face­book, Mi­crosoft, AOL, Apple, Twit­ter, Linked­In, Drop­Box, and Ya­hoo — is­sued a state­ment Wed­nes­day an­noun­cing it was pulling its sup­port of the USA Free­dom Act. The le­gis­la­tion would take the stor­age of phone re­cords out of gov­ern­ment hands and keep them with phone com­pan­ies.

But newly amended lan­guage in the bill has “moved in the wrong dir­ec­tion” of true sur­veil­lance re­forms, the tech com­pan­ies said.

“The latest draft opens up an un­ac­cept­able loop­hole that could en­able the bulk col­lec­tion of In­ter­net users’ data,” the co­ali­tion said. “While it makes im­port­ant pro­gress, we can­not sup­port this bill as cur­rently draf­ted and urge Con­gress to close this loop­hole to en­sure mean­ing­ful re­form.”

The loop­hole re­ferred to is the Free­dom Act’s defin­i­tion of a “spe­cif­ic se­lec­tion term,” which un­der­went changes in the new­est ver­sion of the bill re­leased this week. Earli­er drafts, in­clud­ing the one passed two weeks ago by the House Ju­di­ciary and In­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees, defined se­lect­ors as “a per­son, ac­count or en­tity.” But the new lan­guage — which adds words like “ad­dress and “device” and the non-lim­it­ing term “such as” — is seen as more broad.

Also on Wed­nes­day, the Com­puter & Com­mu­nic­a­tions In­dustry As­so­ci­ation, whose mem­bers ad­di­tion­ally in­clude Pan­dora, Sam­sung, Sprint and oth­ers, said it would “not sup­port con­sid­er­a­tion or pas­sage of the USA Free­dom Act in its cur­rent form.”

Sev­er­al pri­vacy groups have already re­vol­ted against the bill, cit­ing sim­il­ar con­cerns with the new lan­guage. Har­ley Gei­ger, seni­or coun­sel with the Cen­ter for Demo­cracy & Tech­no­logy, said the bill would al­low for “an un­ac­cept­able level of sur­veil­lance.” While the lan­guage could im­pose some lim­its on in­fin­itely vast bulk col­lec­tion of phone re­cords, Gei­ger said, it could still po­ten­tially al­low col­lec­tion on areas as large as area codes or cit­ies.

Earli­er on Wed­nes­day, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion made of­fi­cial its sup­port of the amended Free­dom Act, which is a product of weeks of back­room ne­go­ti­ations among the White House, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and House lead­er­ship.

The House is sched­uled to vote on the bill Thursday un­der closed rules, mean­ing that no amend­ments will be al­lowed.

What We're Following See More »
GAVE COMMITTEE A “ROAD MAP” OF NAMES, PLACES, AND LEADS
Fusion GPS Founder Alleges Trump-Mafia Connection
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.

Source:
RYAN SAYS HOUSE WILL VOTE TONIGHT
Senate Dems Say They Can Block Spending Measure
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."

Source:
BILL HAS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT
House Introduces Sexual Harassment Overhaul
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.

Source:
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN SUSPICIOUS CHECKS FLAGGED
Mueller’s Team Scrutinizing Russian Embassy Transactions
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
PRO-TRUMP SPENDING COULD VIOLATE FECA
FBI Investigating Potential Russian Donations to NRA
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login