On June 2, 2015, Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which as an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act. What a delightful name! The USA Freedom Act!
So, what is this new bill all about?
In an attempt to curb NSA's rampant spying activities – particularly when it comes to bulk collection of phone-call metadata such as date, time, call number, device etc. – legislators introduced several "reforms."
Instead of allowing the NSA to collect and store metadata on its own servers, telephone companies will now be required/forced to do that instead. The NSA can still access that data with the permission of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA court).
This is the same court that, in 33 years, declined only 11 out of 33,900 surveillance requests made by the agency. Perhaps you can already smell the scent of FREEDOM!
Ah, but don't worry! To promote transparency in the decisions of the FISA court, the U.S. government will appoint special overseers that would make sure civil liberties aren't violated in the secret dealings of the court. Government-appointed overseers? Move along, no conflict of interests here! Also, these overseers can technically be blocked from accessing certain documents on the grounds of lacking a security clearance, and the decision to disclose information to the public is still in the hands of the intelligence community. The question of rubber-stamping hasn't been addressed either.
To further limit NSA's reach, the bill requires the agency to submit specific selection terms in its surveillance requests, which exclude broad categories like entire geographical regions or networks. While this technically prevents the NSA from conducting "mass-surveillance," the final decision about what constitutes a valid selection term is up to the court.
While the USA Freedom Act pretends to curb NSA's phone spying activities, it does nothing to address the agency's surveillance of the internet under programs like PRISM, the existence of which was made public by Edward Snowden several years ago.
My American audience can rejoice now that the bill was signed into law. Your freedoms have been restored and future abuses have been made impossible. If you doubt this, just take a look at the name of the bill – the USA Freedom Act. It has "freedom" in it, doesn't it? And to those foolish enough to voice complaints about the bill, let me remind you that those who opposed the Patriot Act were called unpatriotic. You don't want to be anti-freedom now, do you?
On a side note, President Obama will sign the USA Prosperity Act in the near future, which will give a job to every unemployed American, wipe out the national debt and restore U.S. economic prosperity. Well, the Prosperity Act doesn't technically have to do any of that because in the 21st century, words have more weight than actions.
Lastly, if you think that freedom will come in the form of a government law, you are sadly mistaken about the nature of politics. Every law is an opinion with a gun. You comply, or else… If that's what you call freedom, you are already living in a paradise.
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