Lawmakers Need to Get Behind the USA Freedom Act

UPDATE: A gutted version of the USA Freedom Act passed in the House on May 22. Because that bill removed many of the privacy protections that were present in earlier forms of the bill, the Free Press Action Fund did not support it. Go here for more.

There are nearly half a dozen bills and proposals in Washington that claim to reform the worst of the NSA’s spying programs.

Some of them, like the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act — introduced by Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger — have gaping loopholes that would leave our privacy unprotected.

Others, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s so-called FISA Improvements Act, would give the NSA even MORE power to spy on us. (For a comprehensive look at how all of the competing bills and proposals stack up, take a look at this awesome graphic our friends at Access created).

Only one of these bills — the USA Freedom Act — is the real deal. It would end the NSA’s bulk collection of our call records and institute other important surveillance reforms.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, both respected members of Congress who’ve long been active on national security issues (Sensenbrenner co-sponsored the Patriot Act, which the Freedom Act would amend). And the USA Freedom Act has more than 140 co-sponsors, including a majority of the members of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill.

And yet because the House leadership has failed to support it, the USA Freedom Act has stalled. It needs that support to get to a floor vote.

Two of the lawmakers with the most influence over this debate are from Virginia: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. The USA Freedom Act can pass the House of Representatives if a full vote is called — but Reps. Cantor and Goodlatte need to make that happen. That’s why we’re asking Virginians to urge them to move this bill forward.

Meanwhile, the sponsors behind the other bills are raring for a fight. That’s why it’s urgent for us to pressure Congress to support the USA Freedom Act — and to make it clear that real NSA reform is possible.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good