During the debate over the USA Freedom Act, Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul wrote that:
However, Edward Snowden’s revelations have galvanized opposition to the NSA’s ongoing violations of our liberties. This is why Congress will soon vote on the USA FREEDOM Act. This bill extends the expiring surveillance laws. It also contains some “reforms” that supposedly address all the legitimate concerns regarding mass surveillance. However, a look at the USA FREEDOM Act’s details, as opposed to the press releases of its supporters, shows that the act leaves the government’s mass surveillance powers virtually untouched. The USA FREEDOM Act has about as much to do with freedom as the PATRIOT Act had to do with patriotism. If Congress truly wanted to protect our liberties it would pass the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which repeals the PATRIOT Act. Congress should also reverse the interventionist foreign policy that increases the risk of terrorism by fostering resentment and hatred of Americans. Fourteen years after the PATRIOT Act was rushed into law, it is clear that sacrificing liberty does little or nothing to preserve security. Instead of trying to fool the American people with phony reforms, Congress should repeal all laws that violate the Fourth Amendment, starting with the PATRIOT Act.
Dr. Paul was joined in his opposition to the USA FREEDOM Act by Judge Andrew Napolitano, and others who warned that the USA FREEDOM Act not only offered phony reforms but would actually expand the government’s ability to spy on us! On the other hand, many claimed that the USA FREEDOM Act represented a real step forward that would end bulk data collection and limit mass surveillance. This recent story from ABC News shows that Ron Paul was right once again:
Before the signing of the USA Freedom Act in June 2015, one of the NSA‘s most controversial programs was the mass collection of telephonic metadata from millions of Americans — the information about calls, including the telephone numbers involved, the time and the duration but not the calls’ content — under a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act‘s Section 215. From this large “haystack,” as officials have called it, NSA analysts could get approval to run queries on specific numbers purportedly linked to international terrorism investigations.
The problem for the NSA was that the haystack was only about 30 percent as big as it should’ve been; the NSA database was missing a lot of data. As The Washington Post reported in 2014, the agency was not getting information from all wireless carriers and it also couldn’t handle the deluge of data that was coming in.
On the technical side, Chris Inglis, who served as the NSA’s deputy director until January 2014, recently told ABC News that when major telecommunications companies previously handed over customer records, the NSA “just didn’t ingest all of it.”
” were trying to make sure they were doing it exactly right,” he said, meaning making sure that the data was being pulled in according to existing privacy policies. The metadata also came in various forms from the different companies, so the NSA had to reformat much of it before loading it into a searchable database.
Both hurdles meant that the NSA couldn’t keep up, and of all the metadata the agency wanted to be available for specific searches internally, only about a third of it actually was.
But then the USA Freedom Act was signed into law, and now Inglis said, all that is “somebody else’s problem.”
The USA Freedom Act ended the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata but charged the telecommunications companies with keeping the data on hand. The NSA and other U.S. government agencies now must request information about specific phone numbers or other identifying elements from the telecommunications companies after going through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court and arguing that there is a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the number is associated with international terrorism.
As a result, the NSA no longer has to worry about keeping up its own database and, according to Inglis, the percentage of available records has shot up from 30 percent to virtually 100. Rather than one internal, incomplete database, the NSA can now query any of several complete ones.
The new system “guarantees that the NSA can have access to all of it,” Inglis said.
NSA general counsel Glenn Gerstell made a brief reference to the increased capacity in a post for the Lawfare blog in January after terrorist attacks at home and abroad.
“Largely overlooked in the debate that has ensued in the wake of recent attacks is the fact that under the new arrangement, our national security professionals will have access to a greater volume of call records subject to query in a way that is consistent with our regard for civil liberties,” he wrote.
Read the whole story here.
So it looks like those of us who warned that the USA FREEDOM Act were correct. It did not end mass surveillance or bulk data collection, it just “outsourced” the collection to private companies.
More proof that the the USA FREEDOM Act strengthened ties between crony capitalists and the surveillance state, instead of strengthening our constitutional protections, is the recent revelations of how At&T was allowing federal and local officials to use a new program called Hemisphere to spy on AT&T customers.
AT&T was compensated buy the government for their cooperation with the surveillance state, a practice authorized by Section 106 of the USA Freedom Act that:
Permits the government to compensate third parties for producing tangible things or providing information, facilities, or technical assistance in accordance with an order issue under Section 215 or to comply with this Act.
During the debate on the USA Freedom Act, some predicted that passage of the bill would be a big win for the NSA.
The Campaign for Liberty continues to work to roll-back the surveillance state. Please support our efforts.