The "Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring" ("USA FREEDOM") Act, was introduced in both houses of the U.S Congress on 29 October 2013.
This bill amends the following acts:
- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA);
- the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005;
- the federal criminal code;
- the Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978;
- the Fair Credit Reporting Act 1970; and
- the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
In October 2013, the Guardian published this excellent summary of the bill:
"• Ending bulk metadata collection. Section 215 of the Patriot Act would be tightened to place more onus on intelligence agencies to show they are looking for specific suspects and do not inadvertently sweep up information on innocent Americans. They would have to show a Fisa court judge that the target was thought to be an agent of a foreign power, was engaged in activity that was the subject of an investigation, or was an individual in contact with an agent of foreign power.
• Disclosure. The attorney general would be required to publicly disclose decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court that contain a significant construction or interpretation of law, but may continue to classify confidential parts. Specific information on individuals would not be disclosed, but the policy changes would be. The intent is that the bill would end “secret laws” being made behind closed doors by the Fisa courts and the intelligence community.
• Greater transparency. Internet and telephone companies that received Fisa court orders would be allowed to report the number of Fisa orders and national security letters complied with, and number of users on whom information was demanded.
• Privacy advocate. The bill creates an office of special advocate within the Fisa court who would have standing to appear to represent the public and privacy concerns. They would be chosen from a list recommended by Obama's privacy and civil liberties oversight board but a Fisa court judge would appoint from that list. This judicial appointment would have the power to appeal Fisa court decisions.
• Foreign loopholes. The bill amends section 702 (b) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to prevent intelligence agencies from “reverse targeting” that may allow them to intercept email and internet communications of Americans. It also calls on the US inspector general to investigate whether current minimization procedures adequately protect the constitutional rights of US persons and gives more legal powers to the privacy and civil liberties oversight board.
• Other loopholes. Title 4 of Fisa, known as the pen register and trap-and-trace provisions, would be amended to make sure the government does not just rebuild its metadata dragnet using different authorities."
The House of Representatives passed on 22 May 2014 the USA Freedom act by 303 votes to 121.
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote an open letter to the US Senate to urge the Senators to "pass the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685) without any amendments that would dilute its safeguards, and ensure it achieves its stated purpose of ending dragnet collection of private records". Although the Executive Director stressed the weaknesses of the bill (eg it does not deal with surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act), he recognises it as a "critical first step towards addressing the harms to basic freedoms and democratic values we have documented".
On the other hand, a group of civil liberties advocates, organizations and whistleblowers urged the Senate to oppose the bill for the following reasons:
- The bill does not define “direct connection” in the new Call Detail Record provision of Section 215. This may permit the government to access the data from Americans’ smart phones through telecommunication providers, which the USA FREEDOM Act immunizes from customer lawsuits. This would be an expansion of the NSA’s current authority.
- S. 2685 fails to substantially rein in surveillance, and stops short of establishing adequate oversight.
- S. 2685 fails to protect against future privacy invasions of innocent people.
The Senate rejected the USA FREEDOM Act on last 19 November.
A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person's race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation.
Source: Cornell University Law School