The USA Freedom Act was lauded as a great first step in trying to stop the abuses of the NSA. However, to even pass out of committee many changes altered the initial text of the bill.

These changes didn’t improve privacy. And, unfortunately that’s just half of it. The amended bill which passed the House on May 22nd actually makes things worse.

Metadata is Not Blocked

“No order issued under this subsection may authorize the collection of tangible things without the use of a specific selection term that meets the requirements of subsection (b)(2).”

Specific Selection term,

“means a discrete term, such as a term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device, used by the Government to limit the scope of the information or tangible things sought pursuant to the statute authorizing the provision of such information or tangible things to the Government.”

As most privacy advocate groups note, “specific selection term” can be broadly interpreted. As JustSecurity reports, this can mean an email address to a specific person, or it could mean a zip code. The selection term can easily target an individual or widen the scope of search by a simple interpretation.

Metadata is the key target in the collection from a suspected person’s phone, his/her contacts, and the contacts of those contacts (2 Hops Rule). However, connections between any of those people no longer need to be solely based off of phone call connections.

Marcie Wheeler of notices a footnote about hops collection from a report on the bill by Mike Rogers.

2 Hops Rule to Incorporate Metadata

“3 The Committee understands that ‘‘[t]he first ‘hop’ from a seed returns results including all identifiers (and their associated metadata) with a contact and/or connection with the seed. The second ‘‘hop’’ returns results that include all identifiers (and their associated metadata) with a contact and/or connection with an identifier revealed by the first ‘hop.’’ ’ In re Application of the FBI for an Order Requiring the Production of Tangible Things, BR 14–01, at 1–2 n.1 (FISC Feb. 5, 2014).”

Wheeler writes, “First, they’re including “associated metadata” among the things that can be further chained… But in addition, they’re including “connections,” in addition to contacts, with the seed…That is, you don’t have to ever call a target to be sucked up in the phone dragnet. You can be simply “connected” to that target.””

Thowback Thursday

Glenn Greenwald’s new book points out that 70% of the intelligence budget goes to private corporations. Some of that is paying for defense contractors’ six digit salaries and over priced projects, while some of goes to the NSA’s corporate sponsors like Microsoft, AT&T, and other major technology and telecommunication companies. It’s especially important to build a relationship with corporate sponsor when you need to do something illegal. The easiest way to achieve compliance is bribes.

They actually include corporate compensation in the so-called Freedom Act.

(j) COMPENSATION.—The Government shall compensate a person for reasonable expenses incurred for—

(1) producing tangible things or providing information, facilities, or assistance in accordance with an order issued with respect to an application described in subsection (b)(2)(C) or an emergency production under subsection (i) that, to comply with subsection (i)(1)(D), requires an application described in subsection (b)(2)(C); or

(2) otherwise providing technical assistance to the Government under this section or to implement the amendments made to this section by the USA FREEDOM Act.

The USA Freedom Act has not been watered down in the House. It has been amended to further empower the NSA.

This act has taken more direction from the likes of Diane Feinstein and Mike Rogers than all of the privacy advocates in the world. We should expect the same amendment process to occur in the Senate.

Privacy doesn’t stand a chance at the federal level because amoral people have no interest in it. The last hope to guard against the NSA won’t be found from those in DC, but from those in these states.

Take action in your state to introduce and pass legislation that will push back on the surveillance state.


Kelli Sladick

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