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June 02, 2015

Senate Passes USA Freedom Act to Replace Expired Patriot Act

Obama says he'll sign the bill.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress approved sweeping changes Tuesday to surveillance laws enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, eliminating the National Security Agency's disputed bulk phone-records collection program and replacing it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies' hands.

...

The legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse in a dizzying collision of presidential politics and national security policy. But the authorization will undergo major changes, the legacy of agency contractor Edward Snowden's explosive revelations two years ago about domestic spying by the government.

The Senate passed USA Freedom over McConnell's objections. He sought to formally pass the Patriot Act, explicitly gifting the government the broad metadata collection powers it previously just assumed.

"This is a step in the wrong direction," a frustrated McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the Senate's final vote to approve the House version, dubbed the USA Freedom Act. He said the legislation "does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time."

...

It would also continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that lapsed Sunday night, and which are considered more effective than the phone-data collection program. These include the FBI's authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.

Many are unimpressed by the reforms contained in this bill.

The bill, the USA FREEDOM Act, manages to have a more ridiculous acronym than the PATRIOT Act and includes a few measures to strengthen the intelligence community’s ability to track terror suspects (for instance, it eases the transition between tracking them within the U.S. and abroad, activities that require different legal approval). Some privacy advocates thought the bill didn’t go nearly far enough -- it will still allow broad requests for metadata, just not as broad or as easily as under the original Patriot Act -- but some hawkish legislators (and NR’s editors) argued that the replacement program will be less effective without doing anything important for civil liberties.

Meanwhile, the AP is reporting the FBI is running surveillance flights from "front companies," though this seems to be ginned up nonsense to me.

ASHINGTON (AP) -- Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans' privacy.

See, this is what I mean by ginned-up nonsense. In rare occasions, they may be equipped with equipment capable of this.

What am I supposed to do with that?

It seems to me any time you have a surveillance flight, you might want to do some electromagnetic spectrum monitoring on your target. Now I suppose that you could just start scanning everyone in the area.

I don't know. Some people seem less interested in protecting civil liberties than in protecting criminals from detection and prosecution. I suppose this is a reasonable thing to do if you imagine the government will declare you a criminal at some point in the future. A bit paranoid of a fear, but... not as paranoid a fear as it should be.

Even conceding, arguendo, the government might actually turn technology against citizens it brands Political Outlaws at some point in the future, are we to just give terrorists a free hand in the meanwhile?

The "front companies" thing seems like hyped-up nonsense to me, too. You would not want these planes marked FBI, or have them known to be FBI planes. This is the same idea of the FBI working out of vans marked "Imogene's Flowers" when they're doing surveillance.

Do we get worked up about that? Is it just hair-pulling-out time as a general thing?

I just don't see the story here.


digg this
posted by Ace at 05:25 PM

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