Three Senators Decry The House’s NSA Bill, Citing “Watered Down” Reform

A trio of Senators wrote an op-ed for the LA Times calling for NSA reform and decrying the bill that passed the House recently as insufficient for the protection of the privacy of U.S. citizens.

The Senators, Rand PaulMark Udall and Ron Wyden, come from both parties. Senator Wyden is known as the senator that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to, regarding government surveillance.

The editorial is punchy, saying that “for years […] senior government officials claimed that domestic surveillance was narrow in focus and limited in scope. But in June 2013, Americans learned through leaked classified documents that these claims bore little resemblance to reality.”

The senators also mention a “loophole” in American law that allows the government to “read some Americans’ emails without ever getting a warrant.” This is likely a comment on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 that, somehow, still allows for the government to get its hands on email that is older than 180 days with a simple subpoena.

The group wants to ban bulk collection of “American’s private information,” fix the ECPA, and install an “advocate” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

So what about the USA FREEDOM Act? If you recall, it set out to curtail bulk collection and install an advocate in the FISA court. That was true at the beginning, at least. The Senators are not impressed with what eventually passed the House, saying that the “revised version of the USA Freedom Act” had “nearly all of the essential reforms either watered down or removed.”

So, what passed the House won’t do, in their estimation. That USA FREEDOM Act, long in a holding pattern, was rushed through at the end. Around half of its original co-sponsors voted against the bill.

The Senators promise to “vigorously oppose this bill in its current form and continue to push for real changes to the law.” If the Senate can enact stronger reform, it will be interesting to see how hawks in the House react.