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United States Privacy Your Rights Online

NSA Surveillance Reform Bill Passes House 303 Votes To 121 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-than-nothing dept.
First time accepted submitter strangeintp (892348) writes "The first legislation aimed specifically at curbing US surveillance abuses revealed by Edward Snowden passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats. But last-minute efforts by intelligence community loyalists to weaken key language in the USA Freedom Act led to a larger-than-expected rebellion by members of Congress, with the measure passing by 303 votes to 121. The bill's authors concede it was watered down significantly in recent days but insist it will still outlaw the practice of bulk collection of US telephone metadata by the NSA first revealed by Snowden."
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NSA Surveillance Reform Bill Passes House 303 Votes To 121

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  • Slow clap (Score:5, Funny)

    by scuzzlebutt (517123) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:18PM (#47070279)
    *clap* *clap* *clap*
    • Careful there, they're recording the metadata on that clap, and if you're in the Bahamas or one other unnamed country, they'll keep the sound on file up to a month!

      (I hope my joke doesn't seem like I'm trivializing it. I'll give $20 to the EFF in penance the next time I have $20 to spare)
  • Wait.

    Even serfs had the right to have their own advocate.

    You're not serfs.

    • Its funny, during the last election I made a facebook comment about us being serfs; and an old friend of mine who has spent entirely more time than leads to employability in the academic study of pre-rennassaince europe chimed in with quite a rant about how it was an insult to actual serfdom.

      • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:55PM (#47070569) Homepage

        Your friend got shitty grades in those pre-renaissance Europe classes. The defining characteristic of the serf class was that people born serfs would live their entire lives as serfs and their children would too. There was no pathway to move up classes.

        It's difficult to move up in classes in modern America, but it's possible. Two of our last three Presidents were raised by poor single mothers. Dr. Dre grew up in Compton and just made a billion dollars.

        Actual serfs would have given anything for the rights, representation, and social mobility that we bitch about.

        • I'm sorry it's a stupid movie example, but the fact that a few from luck and/or skill get to move up doesn't make the rest of the system okay. It's like saying there's no oppression in The Hunger Games because game winners become rich celebrities.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Very few Americans ever manage to rise above the station they were born to. But they do get to work more hours than a serf with much less security. None of our last 3 presidents grew up in poverty though Clinton did see some rough patches and his home life wasn't all that good.

          • I recently had the chance to work with a "farmer boy." He never gets tired, he used to work 18's. On a hogfarm. Only people who have been around a real farm can appreciate that statement, because chicken shit is bad, but it's not that bad, cow shit is almost pleasant, but working in pig shit is just awful. A vegetable farm is a whole lot more enjoyable than most livestock farms, that is closed quarter livestock where the shit piles up deep, not open wild roaming cattle ranches, or other free range chicken p
        • by ExecutorElassus (1202245) on Friday May 23, 2014 @02:16AM (#47072631)
          This is all totally off-topic, but there is one part of your argument that merits discussion. Pointing out that a few people have experienced very lucrative social mobility is not evidence of the system as a whole being conducive to it. In fact, such arguments serve the exact opposite goal by thwarting meaningful discussion of social and economic policy. A handy thought experiment from Cracked makes it more clear:

          Let's say there are a hundred of you and your friends all locked in a room, and you're all starving. I walk in, and out of my fat wallet I pull a wad of bills that it more money than you'd make in a year. I set it on a table, and say, "the last one of you left alive gets this pile of money." Then, when all your friends are dead, you get rich, and I say, "see? The system is fair: any one of you can become a rich person, if only you try hard enough. It deliberately conflates "any of you can get rich" with "all of you will get rich." And you and your friends are so busy fighting each other that nobody is asking why there was only money for one of you in the first place.

          Dr. Dre may have become a billionaire, but he grew up in a neighborhood systematically ghettoized, and the majority of the kids he grew up with ended up dead or in jail, and almost all of them stayed poor.
  • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:23PM (#47070321)

    last-minute efforts by intelligence community loyalists to weaken key language in the USA Freedom Act

    Instead of the NewSpeak "intelligence community loyalists" how about we call them what they really are: Enemies of the People.

    • by vettemph (540399)

      One man's tax dollar is another man's profit.

    • "Newspeak" is a method of crippling public discourse and individual thought through the elimination of nuanced descriptive terms. This is NOT an example of it.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      This isn't the Intelligence community vs the people. This is the Legislative vs the Executive. The intelligence community just does what the Executive branch of government tells it to do. Ultimately, this whole surveillance program was a construct by the Executive branch (started under Bush, continued and expanded under Obama), who got enough of the Legislature on board with it to pass the laws they needed to keep this quasi-legal.

      Characterizing it as the intelligence community vs the people is precis
  • who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:24PM (#47070329)

    Another case of the fox guarding the hen house.

  • by WarJolt (990309) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:27PM (#47070365)

    My theory is that any legislation will just put the covert back into intelligence gathering.

    • Back overseas.

      The good old days when the English/Australians spied on the Americans and vice versa.

      This goes back to WWII. They started collecting metadata under Ma Bell.

    • Over the decades when exposed and required to be shut down: The main operational software and hardware is removed and the teams reassigned.
      The methods, data gathered and backups just end up at a different site, branch, agency under as a new or old project.
      The classic "Total Information Awareness" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] would be a public example of this.
  • Distraction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EMG at MU (1194965) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:29PM (#47070373)
    Everybody wins here, a bunch of people get to say they did something in the fight against the NSA. The Executive branch and those in the house who support invasive domestic spying get to keep the majority of their surveillance programs, and most importantly there isn't much more meaningful oversight so who actually knows if the NSA is following the rules. The Executive still gets to hide themselves behind national security letters, "state secrets", and special secret courts.

    However I do not feel like this caused any meaningful change. Hopefully the nation remains outraged at the NSA and this is just the first step in fixing our domestic spying programs, but I feel like we get a few meaningless bills passed and then this issue goes away until the next Snowden.
    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      Everybody wins here

      The fact that your "everyone" doesn't include the citizenry is very indicative of the root of the problem. The people don't matter, only the politicians who are in power matter. These politicians are like teenagers: They have conveniently forgotten the first 3 words of the constitution that they promised to uphold.

    • The quantity of winnage for the general citizenry is however infinitesimal.

  • by Grog6 (85859) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:33PM (#47070403)

    They know everything about you; all it takes is a "gentle reminder" and this bill is turned into a termite-eaten stack of drivel.

    I didn't expect any different, It just means they had enough on enough people to effectively gut it before it was passed. We really knew that already...

    If it really meant anything, this bill would have contained a passage giving Snowden immunity, as long as he testifies against everyone else inside the Govt that violated the constitution with respect to their illegal activities.

    "It's not illegal when the President does it!" didn't work for Nixon, it should not have worked for Bush or Obama. Everyone should be in Jail, at this point, lol.

    WTF has our country become?
    .

    • If it really meant anything, this bill would have contained a passage giving Snowden immunity, as long as he testifies against everyone else inside the Govt that violated the constitution with respect to their illegal activities.

      I think there's a bit of false dichotomy there.

      They know everything about you; all it takes is a "gentle reminder" and this bill is turned into a termite-eaten stack of drivel. I didn't expect any different, It just means they had enough on enough people to effectively gut it before it was passed. We really knew that already...

      The thing with cynicism in politics is that you get zero points for being right about how terrible things are or will be, and it just makes you feel even less like trying to change anything. So lets not say things like that out loud, please?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      no one violated the constitution, THAT'S the problem.

    • Start thinking locally.
      Do you need that chat or VOIP product known to decrypt your messages on your computers?
      Do you need that free or consumer OS known to decrypt your messages on your computers?
      Do you need to invite that hardware vendor known to backdoor your servers next upgrade?
      Do you still trust that crypto vendor known to trapdoor your communications system?
      Are your staff really fully aware of what tame academia, hardware and software providers offered as robust crypto standards?
      Does your histo
    • by Tom (822)

      I didn't expect any different, It just means they had enough on enough people to effectively gut it before it was passed. We really knew that already...

      I doubt the NSA would roll out there (almost certainly existing) politicians-blackmail program for something like this. The much easier solution is to - ignore the bill. It's not like they are new to doing what is clearly illegal, nor lying to congress.

      I see this more in the vein of many other laws which "clarify" already existing rules (heck, last I checked the NSA is forbidden by charta to spy on americans, so why this even needed a law is far beyond me).
      My favorite satirical news magazine, which was ofte

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:33PM (#47070411)

    Justin Amash voted against his own bill. In an article for "the Hill" (http://thehill.com/policy/technology/206929-house-votes-to-limit-nsa-spying) he is quoted as saying:

    “This morning's bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program,” he wrote in a post on Facebook.

    Changes to the language, for instance, would allow the government to obtain data about a broad section of phone records such as "area code 616" or "phone calls made east of the Mississippi."

    “The bill green-lights the government's massive data collection activities that sweep up Americans' records in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” he added.

    Seems that what was actually passed should actually be called the "Placate the Plebs while Continuing to Screw Them Act of 2014"

  • Worse than nothing. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2014 @04:37PM (#47070437)

    The bill basically says that metadata and data should not get collected without a warrant except when one thinks one has a reason. What kind of reason would count as an exception is not actually specified.

    So while the previous practice was clearly illegal, this bill makes everything legal since it only applies the "but only if you think this a good idea" metric and clearly everybody already thought it was a good idea to spy on everyone without warrant.

    • by Tom (822)

      The vital question (yes, I'm too lazy to read the bill itself) is whether or not a generic reason is ok.

      If you need to specify a reason for each case/individual, that would indeed be a hurdle, because it forces the NSA to actually recognize that individuals exist, not just one big pile of information they can access at will.

  • ... the NSA has just freed up a bunch of server capacity for spying on _you_.

  • they are not going to stop any of that spying, they are going to collect as much data as possible on as many people as possible, either the bill gets watered down to the point that it is useless, or it gets passed but ignored or a work around renders it useless, those fascist kleptocrats are not giving up anything
  • This reminds me of the CAN SPAM act. Can our congress do nothing to control the smoke filled room policy making? I'm disgusted.

  • There's Security Theater, and now we have Legislative Theater. Arguing about whether the law could have been "better" or "stronger" is just playing their game. IT DOESN"T MATTER what the law is. The ruling class--like every minority ruling class in history--will do whatever it needs to to stay in power.

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