NYT: NSA reform bill ‘falls far short’

According to The New York Times editorial board, the USA Freedom Act “does not live up to its title.”

In an editorial on Friday, the newspaper said that the surveillance reform bill passed by the House on Thursday “falls far short” of its promises to stop collecting Americans’ data and open up the National Security Agency.

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“Because of last-minute pressure from a recalcitrant Obama administration, the bill contains loopholes that dilute the strong restrictions in an earlier version, potentially allowing the spy agencies to continue much of their phone-data collection,” it said.

Civil liberties advocates who supported the initial form of the House bill from Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said it had been increasingly watered down in recent weeks in order to win broader approval. They especially protested changes made this week behind closed doors, largely at the behest of the Obama administration, to broaden the types of searches the government could do about people's information.

That final move caused core supporters like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology as well as tech companies like Facebook and Google to drop their support for the bill.  

So did many lawmakers who were early supporters of the USA Freedom Act, like Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.). In the end, more than half of the 121 lawmakers who voted against the measure did so because they thought it had been effectively gutted.

In its editorial on Friday, the Times said that the Senate could fix the errors in the House-passed bill and felt confident that lawmakers in the upper chamber could “do a better job of resisting the administration.”

“There is still time for Congress to show that it is serious about reining in the nation’s runaway spies,” it said.