The United States government redeemed a tad of Americans’ right to privacy as the USA Freedom Act was enacted into law on Tuesday night following a 67-32 vote favoring the bill in the Senate. U.S. President Barrack Obama, after signing the bill, remarked that USA Freedom Act strengthens civil liberty safeguards while providing for greater public confidence.
Obama had long sought for a reformation of the NSA Surveillance Program which was a brainchild of former U.S. President George W. Bush as the then-administration’s response to 9/11 attacks. In 2013, Edward Snowden, who was declared a traitor, disclosed that NSA keeps telephone call data of Americans as part of its spying powers. In May, NSA’s data collection program was held by a federal judge as lacking of legal authority.
Under the new law, telecommunications companies will have custody of telephone metadata including the names of parties and the date and time of calls. The content of the call, of course, is strictly not retained.
For the NSA to gain access to such data, a prior request for it is a requisite. And only information which could have relevance to terror investigations will be disclosed. This means that the U.S. government cannot gather all data referring to a specific service provider.
NSA is given six months of transition period. The law also bans massive collection of internet metadata.
Immediately after the Senate voted the bill on Tuesday, supporter Sen Patrick Leahy described the bill to be “the first major overhaul of government surveillance laws in decades.”
“This legislation is critical to keeping Americans safe from terrorism and protecting their civil liberties. I applaud the Senate for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities,” House Speaker John Boehner was quoted by Boston Globe.
Cynthia Wong from Human Rights Watch said the USA Freedom Act is the first act of Congress in restraining NSA since 2001. Wong opined the new law “could be a turn of the tide against mass surveillance.”
Provisions of the new law were the same as last month’s when the bill garnered a 338-88 favorable vote in the House of Representatives.