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Patriot Act reauthorization unveiled

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Unread 04.28.15, 07:29 PM
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Patriot Act reauthorization unveiled

04.28.15 10:27 AM

Privacy advocates are decrying legislation designed to enact modest reforms at the National Security Agency while reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.

House Judiciary Committee leaders revealed a new version of the USA Freedom Act Tuesday, a bill that would change the nation’s intelligence powers more drastically than any legislation in the past decade.

The legislation sets the stage for debate between lawmakers over NSA privacy concerns not addressed in the reforms provided ahead of the June expiration of the Patriot Act authorizations.

Among the Patriot Act provisions set to expire is Section 215, which provides the National Security Agency authorization for its bulk collection of digital communications data. That provision was met with public outrage following former defense contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA leaks.

In its current form, the Freedom Act would reauthorize the NSA’s snooping powers with certain restrictions on how the agency can use the powers including implementing a warrant process through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to search through specific records and requiring the agency to store the records through a third party.

A version of the bill introduced last year was initially embraced by U.S. privacy advocates because of its reforms but quickly criticized as lawmakers watered down privacy protections in an attempt to get the legislation passed.

This go-around, lawmakers can expect similar pushback from privacy groups. The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday shot down the current iteration of the Freedom Act Just after it was unveiled.

“The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform. Congress should let Section 215 sunset as it’s scheduled to, and then it should turn to reforming the other surveillance authorities that have been used to justify bulk collection,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director.

Still, the Freedom Act is better for privacy advocates than a Patriot Act authorization introduced last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). That bill, praised by many members of the GOP establishment, would extend Patriot Act provisions with no additional checks on the government’s spying powers.

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