Yesterday the U.S. House approved the USA Freedom Act, which revises some provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act and extends them until December 2019. The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1 without Congressional action. The main changes in the bill concern bulk data collection and domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Groups advocating for civil liberties are seeking more changes to the USA Freedom Act following a recent federal appeals court ruling, which "determined that the NSA's telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001."
Proponents argue that the USA Freedom Act strikes a reasonable compromise between security and privacy. The overwhelming majority of House members agreed, as the bill passed by 338 votes to 88 (roll call). Representative David Young (IA-03) was among the 196 Republicans who voted yes, while Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 142 Democratic supporters.
Forty-one Democrats and 47 Republicans, including Iowa's Steve King (IA-04) and Rod Blum (IA-01), opposed the USA Freedom Act. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, King warned that the bill amounted to "data disarmament," with too little weight given to "the investigative value" of information gathered through bulk collection techniques, or how to protect "the vital data we need for national security."
In a Twitter post yesterday, Blum said he voted against the bill "because it continues the violation of the 4th Amendment rights of American citizens." In a Facebook post, Blum added, " Protecting your constitutional right to privacy is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to stand strong for the Fourth Amendment in Congress. I think America can be secure WITHOUT sacrificing our civil liberties." I am seeking a more extensive comment and will update this post if I receive one. Blum has long aligned himself with the Iowa GOP's "Liberty" wing.
Representative Steve King press release:
King: Say No to Data Disarmament
May 13, 2015
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Steve King released the following statement after voting against H.R. 2048, the USA FREEDOM Act.
"I voted against H.R. 2048, the USA FREEDOM Act, because it does not strike the right balance between privacy and security," said King. "ISIS just attacked Americans in Texas on May 3, 2015. Five days later, FBI Director James Comey sounded the alarm claiming hundreds and maybe thousands of people across the country are under the sway of the brutal terrorist group. Any overhaul of our surveillance apparatus must include proper consideration of how to maintain access to the valuable data our intelligence community requires to investigate and preempt terrorist attacks.
Unfortunately, the national security component of this important debate has been clouded by the good faith concern for privacy. People are right to be concerned about the bulk collection of data by the government and this bill ends that program. I too share this concern about government surveillance of our private lives and therefore support the intent of this bill. However, there has been little discussion of the investigative value of that data. To remedy that, I offered an amendment in the Judiciary Committee that would allow the intelligence community to voluntarily contract with those companies to compensate them to hold the data for a period of time. My amendment struck the right balance between privacy and security while also not creating any mandate on private industry. This was rejected and without such a safeguard, our national security is at the mercy of private companies that have no obligation to maintain, store and protect the data we need to stop terrorist attacks. Congress has a duty to protect both privacy and our Nation. With careful consideration I am confident we can do both, but the USA FREEDOM Act focuses on ending bulk data collection with no solution for protection of the vital data we need for national security. Going forward it is crucial that Congress concentrate on how to make us safer in light of this data disarmament."