Civil liberties organizations say they can no longer support a National Security Agency reform bill—the USA Freedom Act—after the House significantly weakened it to allow for the possibility of continued bulk surveillance, following pressure from the Obama administration.
The amendments followed negotiations and talks between the Obama administration and House leaders.
“[W]e cannot in good conscience support this weakened version of the bill, where key reforms—especially those intended to end bulk collection and increase transparency—have been substantially watered down,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, in a statement released Tuesday.
“The Electronic Frontier Foundation cannot support a bill that doesn’t achieve the goal of ending mass spying,” the organization declared in a statement.
The new version of the bill (pdf) includes a more expansive definition of the “specific selection term,” which determines who the government is allowed to spy on by compelling phone companies to turn over their records.
“Less than a week ago, the definition was simply ‘a term used to uniquely describe a person, entity, or account,'” the EFF explains. “The new version not only adds the undefined words ‘address’ and ‘device,’ but makes the list of potential selection terms open-ended by using the term ‘such as.'”
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