Immediately after news broke out on Tuesday night that the U.S. Senate passed the USA Freedom Act of 2015 in a 67-to-32 vote, CREDO, a mobile telecom, expressed condemnation of its passage. Vice-President Becky Bond wrote a statement describing the latest legislation to be “a dark day in the history of our Constitution and the Senate.”
“As a telecom that can be compelled by the government to participate in unconstitutional surveillance of Americans, we have long opposed reauthorization of section 215 of the PATRIOT Act — and for a few days we accomplished just that,” remarked Bond in a statement released by CREDO Action.
Under the newly enacted USA Freedom Act, the telecom companies are not just given custody of telephone data and internet metadata, but they are required to store said data and hand them over to the government after the latter’s compliance with certain requirements.
Following the survival of scrutiny in the Senate, U.S. President Barack Obama added his signature signifying enactment of the bill into law shortly after it landed on his desk, also on Tuesday night. The USA Freedom Act, indeed, resurrects the controversial Section 215 of Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI Director to request an order to access certain materials relevant to an ongoing investigation on international terrorism, albeit the process is different this time and the requisites for applying an order are more stringent.
But while the newly enacted USA Freedom Act abolishes bulk collating of data from American’s use of telephone calls and internet, as well as restricts the government’s data gathering to a “greatest extent reasonably practical,” it likewise prolongs two more provisions of Patriot Act — lone wolf surveillance authority and roving wiretaps — for another three years and a half.
Of the many features of the USA Freedom Act, two are remarkable — increasing the penalty from 15 to 20 years upon conviction by the court for supporting terrorism, and declassifying FISA Court opinion containing important legal interpretations; or where declassification is impossible, a summary should be provided.
CREDO Action is the telecom giant’s civil liberties organization composing of more than 3.6 million of activists urging for changes in the way government should run the State.