from May 2015, Culture
Earlier this week, Freedom took it on the chin as the U.S. House passed HR 2048, named the USA Freedom Act. U.S. Congressman Greg Walden voted for the bill. You probably did not hear him say anything about it, because Mr. Walden hopes you never learn how he voted — or that such a vote took place. If he were proud of his vote, rest assured, we would all know about it.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the bulk telephone metadata program run by the National Security Agency (NSA) is not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act and is thus unlawful. The ruling is a big win for privacy and civil liberties advocates who have long argued that Section 215 clearly does not contemplate the type of mass collection we now know is occurring.
However that did not deter Congress and so they quickly wrote H.R 2048 which will undo much of the progress resulting from the Second Circuit’s opinion. The bill's sponsors, and unfortunately some outside advocacy groups, wrongly claim that H.R. 2048 ends “bulk” collection. It is true that the bill ends the phone dragnet as we currently know it—by having the phone companies themselves hold, search, and analyze certain data at the request of the government, which is worse in many ways given the broader set of data the companies hold—but H.R. 2048 actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.