Washington, DC — New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), on behalf of a broad and bipartisan coalition of over forty civil liberties and human rights organizations, yesterday sent a letter to Senate and House leadership supporting the version of the USA FREEDOM Act, S. 2685, that Senator Leahy introduced Tuesday morning. That new version of the bill, supported by a bipartisan range of cosponsors, makes substantial improvements to the watered-down version of USA FREEDOM that passed the House in May, and addresses most of the concerns about the bill that were raised by the same coalition in a previous letter to the Senate last month.
As the new letter states: “The version of the USA FREEDOM Act introduced Tuesday is a substantial improvement upon the House-passed bill, and addresses many of our most significant concerns. While this bill does not include all of the necessary reforms to the government’s surveillance authorities, it is a good first step.” In addition to praising what is in the bill, the letter also praises what is not in the bill: a mandatory data retention requirement for phone or Internet companies. As the letter continues, “We are also encouraged that this bill does not include any form of a mandatory data retention regime…. [W]e strongly oppose any such requirement, as it would threaten privacy and civil liberties, impose unnecessary economic burdens on companies, and create risks to data security.”
The following statement can be attributed to Robyn Greene, OTI’s Policy Counsel specializing in surveillance and cybersecurity issues:
“OTI and the privacy community represented in our letter are pleased to throw our support behind this stronger version of the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act, after having to withdraw support for the House’s watered-down bill. As we make clear in our letter, Senator Leahy’s new version of the bill makes significant improvements that effectively respond to most of our community’s concerns. This new bill gets us much closer to definitively ending the NSA’s bulk records collection program and providing meaningful transparency and accountability around its remaining programs. We hope that our community’s strong and unified voice supporting the bill and urging its passage will encourage the Senate and the House to move quickly and send the USA FREEDOM Act to the President’s desk without making any changes that would undermine or weaken its protections.”
The same day that Senator Leahy re-introduced USA FREEDOM, OTI published a new paper, Surveillance Costs: The NSA’s Impact on the Economy, Internet Freedom, and Cybersecurity, which catalogues the significant costs of the NSA programs beyond their impact on privacy and civil liberties. The following statement can be attributed to Kevin Bankston, OTI’s Policy Director and one of the authors of that report:
“This new, stronger version of the USA FREEDOM Act would go a long way toward stemming the costs of the NSA’s spying programs and restoring trust in the American Internet industry, by prohibiting bulk records collection and providing substantially more transparency around the NSA’s surveillance programs. But ensuring that a strong version of USA FREEDOM becomes law is only the first step toward repairing the damage that the NSA has done to America’s tech economy, its foreign relationships, and the security of the Internet itself.”