Over the summer, OpenTheGovernment.org and a group of other transparency organizations wrote to Senate leadership to request that they allow a floor vote on the Senate compromise version of the USA FREEDOM Act, without any changes that weaken the text. We wrote that the bill was only “a beginning, not an ending, to the necessary transparency reforms,” in part because the intelligence community insisted on a number of loopholes in the government reporting requirements. But even with those flaws, we were convinced that the bill would be “the most important step Congress has taken to reform surveillance, and secrecy about surveillance, since the passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001.”
Last week, Senate majority leader Harry Reid acted to bring USA FREEDOM to a vote this year. We applaud that decision. It is time for Congress to act on this truly bipartisan legislation.
It remains unclear what amendments will be offered and adopted before a final Senate vote on the legislation. OpenTheGovernment.org would enthusiastically support certain amendments, such as an effort to prevent “backdoor searches” of Americans’ communications under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. We strongly oppose amendments to weaken the bill, or to attach privacy and transparency-threatening measures like the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA).