Computer & Communication Industry Association
PublishedJuly 29, 2014

Senate Offers Better Surveillance Reforms In Its USA Freedom Act

Washington – Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has introduced surveillance reform legislation that would improve upon the bill the House passed earlier this summer. The Senate’s USA Freedom Act would make the ban on bulk metadata collection more effective and improve the checks and balances.

Leahy’s legislation would clear up confusion on bulk data collection by tightening the so-called “specific selection terms” allowed in government searches. The bill would specifically ban wide searches by broad geographic regions or service providers.

As for oversight, the bill would ensure meaningful judicial review of nondisclosure orders and strengthen FISA court advocate provisions. The Senate bill would also increase transparency by requiring that the government report the numbers of records it requested on individuals, business records, call details and Section 702 authorizations, as well as the number of individuals who were likely Americans.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has been a voice against surveillance overreach for years, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December. The following may be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“The Senate bill is a vast improvement over the final House bill, which was unfortunately watered down. The Senate USA Freedom Act narrows key loopholes on bulk data collection and offers greater transparency, which is essential for citizens in a free democracy. We appreciate the Senate and its staff for listening to those concerned about civil liberties and to the tech industry to make thoughtful improvements so that the bill would address the reforms lawmakers and the public have been demanding.

“The House bill was not just a case of the devil in the details, but legislative language reversing the bill’s purpose in the details — whether intentionally or not. We are encouraged that this is a product of hard work between both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and the White House.

“The House ambiguously defined the “specific selector term” — potentially allowing the very type of bulk surveillance that the law was aimed at preventing. We appreciate those committed to surveillance reform for wading into the details and offering a Senate bill that would deliver real surveillance reforms. There are other areas or related reform that will need to be addressed in the future, but this is a long-awaited step in the right direction.”