International

U.S. passes NSA surveillance reform

The USAFA represents the first major reform to the NSA’s mass surveillance of global communications that has been effected since whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the full extent of the spying programmes to the world in 2013.

The USAFA represents the first major reform to the NSA’s mass surveillance of global communications that has been effected since whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the full extent of the spying programmes to the world in 2013.   | Photo Credit: Uncredited

The USAFA represents the first major reform to the NSA’s mass surveillance of global communications.

It was a historic moment for civil liberty advocates as much as it was for libertarians of the American right when the U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed on a vote of 67-32, and President Barack Obama signed into law, the first reform in a decade limiting the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance on millions of citizens’ telephone conversations.

The USA Freedom Act is now operational after the US Patriot Act, the post-9/11 measure permitting mass global surveillance by the NSA on an unprecedented scale, expired on Sunday at midnight after attempts to extend it were blocked by Republican Senator Rand Paul.

The USAFA represents the first major reform to the NSA’s mass surveillance of global communications that has been effected since whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the full extent of the spying programmes to the world in 2013, even though many called for further reform pointing out that spying on foreigners was untouched by this bill.

Patriot Act’s expiration

The Patriot Act’s expiration effectively brought to an end the NSA’s bulk dragnet collection of telephone metadata relating to American citizens, executed under the Act’s notorious Section 215, and that included information on who called whom when, but not the actual content of the call. However, the USAFA still required such metadata collection by the major telecom companies of the U.S., and authorities may access the information only with a warrant from the shadowy Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, after the NSA identifies a specific person or group of people suspected of terror ties.

Shortly after the bill passed in the Senate Mr. Obama applauded its Republican backers saying, “For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe. That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.”

The controversial saga of the USAFA appeared to have resulted not only in strange bedfellows such as Mr. Obama and Mr. Paul, but it also placed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at odds with his political counterpart in the House, Speaker John Boehner, who had last month ushered a bill through his chamber that passed on a 338-88 vote with bipartisan support. Despite what was hailed as a “defeat” for Mr. McConnell, he had said earlier that the House bill was a “resounding victory for those who are plotting against our homeland.”

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:26:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-passes-nsa-surveillance-reform/article7279195.ece

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