Recently approved by the US House of Representative, the “USA Freedom Act” is America’s attempt to address the controversy surrounding the NSA’s unfettered mass surveillance programs. Where our national security apparatus is desperately in need of proper oversight, along with meaningful checks and balances, this so-called reform addresses a symptom of the much larger disease by supposedly limiting the ability of the NSA to collect mass data on the phone calls of Americans. Although the bill could be a first step, it is largely regarded as the only viable political solution at this moment, even though we should be able to do better.
Aside from the loose technical language, which the NSA is likely to use to circumvent any legal consequences as they go about business-as-usual, the weakened version that passed does not include any provisions requiring the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves surveillance requests, to appoint lawyers to offer a counter argument to the NSA’s views. Judges exist to ensure a request can be sufficiently justified to fit within the technicalities of the law, thus no one is there to defend the victims of potential abuses. Meanwhile, USA Freedom Act never even attempted to create safe “official channels” for whistleblowers, i.e. the only reason we know about our government’s wrongdoings. These and a whole host of other issues mean the USA Freedom Act is essentially another example of our government addressing a political problem at the expense of solving a far more difficult real problem.
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