Despite Protest, The USA Freedom Act Remains In Holding Pattern

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Coming off a day of global protest — both offline and off — that sent tens of thousands of emails and phone calls into the United States Congress, it appears that the USA Freedom Act hasn’t budged on Capitol Hill.

According to The Hill, the bill is stuck fast. Despite the recent protests dubbed “The Day We Fight Back” that argued in favor of the Act, Congress hasn’t yet changed its mind in terms of action when it comes to the NSA; Legislators appear to be waiting for the administration to nod its head one direction or the other on the bill.

As The Hill’s Hillicon Valley wrote today:

In the House, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) seems to be waiting for the Obama administration to take a formal position on the USA Freedom Act, authored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), before scheduling a markup.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wants to see what recommendations Attorney General Eric Holder and top intelligence leaders make by a March 28 deadline set by President Obama.

With both chambers apparently in a holding pattern, it is not clear what immediate impact the protests had. This is of course not surprising; anyone expecting massive, and immediate change was hoping for too much.

If you need a quick primer on the USA Freedom Act, head here. (Don’t worry too much over the name of the bill. Yes it’s rah-rah, but in this case, not ironically so.)

TechCrunch recently spoke to  Trevor Timm, the co-founder and the executive director of theFreedom of the Press Foundation on the protests, a conversation during which he noted that at one point, the day of protest was kicking 5,000 calls per hour into Congressional offices. His take on the potential impact of the prior day’s protest:

What impact may the day’s protests have? In Timm’s view, the effort will perhaps encourage Congress to debate the USA Freedom Act, and oppose Senator Feinstein’s FISA Improvements Act, which in his view would “legalize mass surveillance.” According to Timm, the “USA Freedom Act has the best shot of real reform.”

Given The Hill’s reporting, I’d warrant that the protests had the warmest of reactions in its simple volume. But that appears to be it.

TechCrunch spoke again with Timm, who indicated optimism for change:

It’s a shame Congress is not moving quicker on an issue that clearly means a lot to millions of Americans across party lines. However, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires in 2015, so lawmakers are going to have to tackle this issue eventually. And the closer it gets to election season, the more this issue will affect midterm elections, so it’s in Congress’ best interest to address it sooner rather than later.

Immediate change is elusive. But with the continued drip of revelations from the Snowden files, pressure still mounts. Bulk collection is no trivial matter. Keep in mind, as Snowden has said, that bulk collection is simple verbiage for mass surveillance. And to contravene other drivel, data programs are surveillance efforts.

Food for thought, but if you were waiting for a time to speak up, now would do just fine. We’re in the waiting moment, but continued noise could help tip the scales.

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER KATE MEREAND-SINHA UNDER CC BY 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN CROPPED)