Last week, OpenTheGovernment.org and thirteen other organizations wrote to the House leadership and asked them to restore the government transparency provisions of the original USA FREEDOM Act in order to “to verify that the NSA actually ends bulk collection instead of finding new loopholes to exploit.” Instead, House leadership engaged in closed-door negotiations with the intelligence community, and introduced new loopholes into the bill’s privacy provisions at the NSA’s behest. As a result, privacy organizations, technology companies, and many of the USA FREEDOM Act’s original cosponsors withdrew their support. Nonetheless, the House passed the bill by a wide margin.
The debate will now move to the Senate, where OpenTheGovernment.org hopes the Judiciary Committee will take up the original version of the USA FREEDOM Act instead of the watered-down House version. Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, said, “the last-minute, secretive changes to the House bill show how crucial it is for the Senate to require the government to honestly report on the number of Americans whose information is being stored in the NSA’s databases.”