The USA Freedom Act has passed the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly with 338 votes in favor and 88 against. It now moves to the U.S. Senate.
Congressman Justin Amash, who has the strongest voting record in Congress on Constitutional issues, was one of the 88 votes against the “Freedom Act.” On his Facebook page, Amash explains why he voted the way he did. In part, he writes:
The bill’s sponsors, and unfortunately some outside advocacy groups, wrongly claim that H.R. 2048 ends “bulk” collection. It’s true that the bill ends the phone dragnet as we currently know it—by having the phone companies themselves hold, search, and analyze certain data at the request of the government, which is worse in many ways given the broader set of data the companies hold—but H.R. 2048 actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.
H.R. 2048 does this by authorizing the government to order the production of records based upon a “specific selection term” (i.e., like a search term used in a search engine). The records sought still must be relevant to an investigation, so it’s possible the court’s ruling will continue to restrain the government in some fashion. But it’s more likely a court looking at H.R. 2048’s language will see the “specific selection term” as defining the outer limits of what Congress considers acceptably “relevant” under Section 215.- Rep. Justin Amash (R) MI
Proponents of the bill say that under the USA Freedom Act, the NSA would be prohibited from collecting telephone metadata under the Patriot Act. Instead, the agency would have to acquire a warrant every time it wanted to access phone records, which would be held by telephone companies. Officials would need to submit data requests via keywords in order to collect relevant data from companies.
The bill would also reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) by setting up a five-person panel that would offer advise when intelligence agencies are seeking new interpretations of existing law. Some court rulings would need to be declassified.