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House Votes To End Spy Agencies' Bulk Collection of Phone Data 142

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a story at Reuters that gives a rare bit of good news for the Fourth Amendment: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday that would end spy agencies' bulk collection of Americans' telephone data, setting up a potential showdown with the U.S. Senate over the program, which expires on June 1. The House voted 338-88 for the USA Freedom Act, which would end the bulk collection and instead give intelligence agencies access to telephone data and other records only when a court finds there is reasonable suspicion about a link to international terrorism.
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House Votes To End Spy Agencies' Bulk Collection of Phone Data

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  • of which agency? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:59PM (#49686643)

    For every program we discover there's probably 3 or 4 that we haven't yet.
    For every agency we know about, there's probably at least 1 or 2 more.
    NSA gets all the news. When's the last time anyone mentioned the NRO?
    Does this include DOD, DOJ, all branches of the military, private contractors used to skirt the laws, etc...?

    • by ron_ivi ( 607351 ) <(sdotno) (at) (cheapcomplexdevices.com)> on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:10AM (#49687447)

      Also -- why the focus on a tiny subset (just Metadata) of a dying communiation system (phone).

      It'd be far more interesting if they'd do something about far more invasive (not just metadata, but content too) that's being captured from (presumably) all internet traffic (skype, email, etc).

      • I'm hoping "phone records" includes phone metadata, like keep-alive packets. That's one of the primary concerns to me: by collecting "phone records" they're effectively tracking the physical location of everyone with a powered cell phone (i.e., the vast bulk of people) all the time.

      • That's just the media's focus, not the law's.

        Mostly framed so far as dealing with bulk collection of domestic telephone "metadata," the bipartisan USA Freedom Act addresses activities much broader than phone calls, said government officials and private experts.

        Granted, I haven't been able to find more details than that (on a cursory read of the Wikipedia article, anyway).

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:00PM (#49686655) Homepage Journal

    They've invested billions if not trillions in the surveillance networks and infrastructure.

    Is anyone going to really believe it's all been mothballed at the stroke of a pen?

    I won't.

    • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:25PM (#49686783)

      They've invested billions if not trillions in the surveillance networks and infrastructure.

      Is anyone going to really believe it's all been mothballed at the stroke of a pen?

      I won't.

      I don't think its the sunk money that matters to them. It's the heady feeling of autocracy and superpowers which they'll never give up. The NSA and CIA are significantly staffed by bad, treasonous, anti-democratic people.

      • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:42PM (#49686861) Homepage Journal

        They've invested billions if not trillions in the surveillance networks and infrastructure.

        Is anyone going to really believe it's all been mothballed at the stroke of a pen?

        I won't.

        I don't think its the sunk money that matters to them. It's the heady feeling of autocracy and superpowers which they'll never give up. The NSA and CIA are significantly staffed by bad, treasonous, anti-democratic people.

        The bill that made it to the house floor was so watered down it was meaningless. It got so many votes because it was a way for congressmen to clean their skirts, while doing nothing significant to curtail the activities of the NSA.

        • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @11:27PM (#49687073)

          The bill that made it to the house floor was so watered down it was meaningless. It got so many votes because it was a way for congressmen to clean their skirts, while doing nothing significant to curtail the activities of the NSA.

          This.

          Hope it gets defeated in the Senate, and they just let Sec. 215 expire. Call or write your Congresscritters in the Senate and tell them to vote down this deceitful POS. Sunset 215!

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:38PM (#49686847)

      There is no requirement to mothball it. They can still use it but only in accordance with the US Constitution. They have to get a warrant. Novel idea that, probably never catch on.

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        There is no requirement to mothball it. They can still use it but only in accordance with the US Constitution. They have to get a warrant. Novel idea that, probably never catch on.

        Somehow the United States survived for over two hundred years requiring the government to get a warrant to search the records of individuals and businesses and without the kind of dragnet surveillance being perpetrated against the American people. The threat that the USA Freedom Act poses to the American People is far far greater than what any terrorist could do.

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          Well the current crop is so incompetent that they can't do anything so difficult as applying for a warrant. That's too hard for them. If they knew their ass from a hole in the ground the World Trade Center towers would still be standing.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Is anyone going to really believe it's all been mothballed at the stroke of a pen?

      Phone records were likely but a small slice of what the surveillance networks are working on.

      They likely have Internet tap aggregators with black boxes in all the major POPs across the country, nay the world.

      If you post something on Facebook, Twitter, or Slashdot, they likely have the data indexed within 15 seconds, And connected to all the poster's personally identifying information for 99% of users, with a single clic

  • Snowden... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:01PM (#49686665)

    So Snowden is going to be pardoned by Obama now, right? Because he's been proven to be correct time and time again, and congress continues to validate his position by voting to approve these counter-spy bills.

    • I'd really like to see that but I doubt it's going to happen, there's a lot of pressure by law enforcement and U.S. intelligence and the people he embarrassed by his disclosures to make an example of him so that anyone else with a conscience that works for the government will think a few times and decide "Nope, don't want to end up like Snowden in prison / solitary for the rest of my life".

    • So Snowden is going to be pardoned by Obama now, right?

      If by "pardoned", you mean "Drone Strike", then yes, Snowden will be "pardoned".

      • I don't think Obama has the stones to carry out a drone strike in Russia, unless he really wants to go to war as Russia isn't like Pakistan. If the administration really wanted to drone him they would have the CIA haul his ass off to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen and do the deed there.
    • by mcl630 ( 1839996 )

      So Snowden is going to be pardoned by Obama now, right? Because he's been proven to be correct time and time again, and congress continues to validate his position by voting to approve these counter-spy bills.

      This is the one and only "counter-spy bill" they've passed (and it still needs to get through the Senate). Everything else from congress on this has just been hot air.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But what about the rest of the world.....

  • by ourlovecanlastforeve ( 795111 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:10PM (#49686703)

    NSA to the people:

    PFCHFHFCHFHF! Yeeeeah. We'll "stop" "wiretapping."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is very very weird when even the government of a people can't tell the spy agency of the government to stop.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They aren't ending the spying if you look at the "Freedom" Bill, they just require the corporations to do the spying instead and give them legal protection against lawsuits. The cost will likely be passed on as a new fee on the customer bills. The court orders for viewing the data is still the secret FISA court and I don't think their is anything preventing open ended court orders.

      This is not a win. Instead of the government having the data, now the corporations and the government have the data and it free

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:12PM (#49686719)

    Have you actually read the text of the bill? [congress.gov] The bulk collection of phone data is not only still allowed, they give legal protections and guidelines for monetary compensation to the businesses they order to collect the data.

    Oh yeah, and at the very bottom of the bill? They reauthorize another section of the Patriot Act.

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:36PM (#49686833) Homepage

      I'm reading... but it is like reading a patch file for a language I don't understand, when I don't have the file that is being patched.
           

      (A) in subparagraph (A), by striking “an order” and inserting “an order or emergency production”; and

      That might as well be:
           

      Go to line 57 and insert "else break;"

      It looks like they are trying to say that, in order to bulk collect data, they must have a specific search they are running that involves a specific telephone line. See SEC 201.

      Can someone define "tangible things" as in "SEC. 103. Prohibition on bulk collection of tangible things" or "“(i) Emergency authority for production of tangible things."

      • I was thinking the same thing. To really see what it does, you have to get the original text and apply the bill to it. Otherwise, yes, it's just a bunch of patches. I'd like to see more bills written in a form that replaces the entire section so the change can be seen in context.

      • It looks like they are trying to say that, in order to bulk collect data, they must have a specific search they are running that involves a specific telephone line. See SEC 201.

        Can someone define "tangible things" as in "SEC. 103. Prohibition on bulk collection of tangible things" or "“(i) Emergency authority for production of tangible things."

        Well I'm sure the Executive branch can define it for you, though you may find the particulars of their definition convoluted and self-serving.

      • Legalese is surprisingly similar to a programming language. The purpose of legalese is to turn ambiguous english into concrete lines. While this can be used for nefarious purposes, like intentionally ambiguous laws, its not that hard to parse once you start looking at it like a procedure.

    • Indeed. Since the U.S. Court of Appeals already found NSA mass phone data collection to be illegal [eff.org] why would they need a new law to end it?

      Sounds fishy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Top NSA officials held "closed door" briefings with senators yesterday to scare them into voting to continue their massive illegal spying program.

    It's a sham "reform" bill that extends the controversial surveillance state provisions of the "Patriot" Act set to expire June 1.

    The reason you are hearing this "Wonderful News" is because the CIA issues press releases to all of their CIA assets (news agencies like NBC, FOX, CBS, CNN, et all) to make sure they highlight 1 good thing they are attempting to remove f

    • Well let's see if I can find that clip... yea, here it is on YouTube [youtube.com]

      This is the one where Holder is asked if bulk collection of data includes members of Congress. Holder's response was basically "We should discuss that offline." Right. So I guess those closed door meetings with Senators is exactly the "forum for discussion" he was talking about.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This was my immediate reaction. They are claiming this stops the bulk collection, which comes from the Patriot Act provision that expires next month. If they want to end bulk collection they would just let that provision expire. Why do they need a new law? Any law they come up with to "stop" the bulk collection will only do the opposite. The article even mentions they would need "specific selection terms" to get the data, which means the data is still being collected. It also mentions they can only ge

  • by jtownatpunk.net ( 245670 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:26PM (#49686785)

    I guess everything's wrapped up in a neat little package.

    Really, I mean that. I'm sorry if it sounded sarcastic.

  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:39PM (#49686851) Homepage Journal

    "The revised bill that makes its way to the House floor this morning doesn't look much like the Freedom Act.

    This morning's bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program. It claims to end "bulk collection" of Americans' data only in a very technical sense: The bill prohibits the government from, for example, ordering a telephone company to turn over all its call records every day.

    But the bill was so weakened in behind-the-scenes negotiations over the last week that the government still can order—without probable cause—a telephone company to turn over all call records for "area code 616" or for "phone calls made east of the Mississippi." The bill green-lights the government's massive data collection activities that sweep up Americans' records in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

    --- Justin Amash

    • Your signature doesn't help for such topics.

    • "No, no, we'd never ask you to turn over all your call records! That's illegal. But we do need all your call records for area codes that have an even number in them. Oh, and in an unrelated matter, all call records for area codes that have an odd number in them. Thanks!

      xoxoxo, NSA"

  • Any vote from the house, from it's very definition, should have no affect on the 4th amendment, save for a vote on a constitutional amendment. The very idea that a vote on a law by the house would give power or remove power from the 4th is an insult and an attack not on the 4th, but on the constitution its self.
  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @11:11PM (#49686991)

    Harper's government, helped by the Liberals, forcefully pushes bill C-51 [www.cbc.ca] to make such government spying legal.

    Want to bet a lot of U.S.A. communications are going to go through Canada's carriers before reaching their destination? (even within the U.S.A.)

    • There was a story years ago that phone companies were routing US long distance traffic through the Canadian network (same as the one used in the US) because it was supposedly cheaper for them to do so. So it wouldn't surprise me if that was still going on or even encouraged by the government.
  • ...even though this isn't an election year, per se.

    Sad that we can only hope for some semblance of our lawmakers actually doing their jobs for the barest fraction of time we pay attention to them doing it.

  • If a spy agency stops collecting data on you...how do you actually know?

    Strangely enough, having a bunch of politicians say "We voted against it, so we won't collect data on you, promise!" really doesn't seem too compelling to me.

    I think I will be keeping my tinfoil hat on with chin strap secured, thank you very much.

  • This is a meaningless distraction from the real, underlying issues. Does anyone really believe this will matter at all? First, the spy agencies will likely continue to do whatever they want, just like they always have. Second, this little token doesn't even put the slightest dent in the collection of sensitive data.

    It is appalling we even have the need for a so-called "USA Freedom Act".

  • I can feel the winds of change already.

  • by linearZ ( 710002 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:03AM (#49687309)

    Last I checked, a court found that no law existed that allowed bulk collections. Not even the Patriot Act: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05... [nytimes.com]

    This is a law that makes something illegal that was already illegal. More congressional theater.

    Wake me up when the people who broke the law start seeing some time. Let me know when the guy who exposed this illegal activity is allowed back into the country with his liberty intact.

    • Wake me up when the people who broke the law start seeing some time. Let me know when the guy who exposed this illegal activity is allowed back into the country with his liberty intact.

      Good night Mr. van Winkle. We'll wake you in a thousand years.

  • I was past caring that bulk collection happens back when it was called Carnivore. I care much more now about oversight.
  • FYI, at least one Congressman thinks the NSA isn't collecting ENOUGH:

    http://thehill.com/policy/nati... [thehill.com]

  • Does anyone know of something along the lines of a GitHub type of public repo that folks have used to put in the texts of these bills and then updated them with the line changes so that we can see how the bills have changed over time more easily?

  • Subject should read: House votes to extend Patriot Act, and changes some cosmetics when it comes to telephone meta data collection.

    1.) Without the act, the Patriot Act, which is what allows the intelligence agencies and LE to collect way to much data, would be again illegal and/or practically much harder. The Freedom Act extends the Patriot Act so the agencies can continue legally to collect the data heaps.

    2.) So, the data will be stored at the provider, and they need a court order. And FISA is known to rej

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