Skeptics on NSA Reform: Beware the 'Backdoors and Loopholes'

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Common Dreams

Skeptics on NSA Reform: Beware the 'Backdoors and Loopholes'

Bills passing through Congress show some promise, but 'devil is in the details'

(Credit: EFF / cc / Flickr)

'Bill to curb NSA spying looks like change, but isn’t really.'

That's the headline on the latest McClatchy reporting focused an a series of legislative efforts now passing through both houses of Congress that are purportedly designed to rein in the National Security Agency and its mass domestic surveillance apparatus.

Among the experts and critics of the NSA programs the newspaper spoke with, former NSA employee Thomas Drake said, "The bottom line: This is largely faux reform and a surveillance salve. To date, neither the House nor Senate attempts go far enough.”

That sentiment was shared by experts at both the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation who have been among the most outspoken critics of the NSA itself and the so-far tepid reforms that have received traction thus far in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Though support has been forthcoming for the USA Freedom Act, as many have stated: 'The devil is in the details.'

The ACLU's assessment, offered by Laura Murphy, the group's legislative director in Washington, explains that "while [USA Freedom Act] is lacking some of the key privacy protections included in the original, it is an important step to reining in the surveillance state. At base, the bill attempts to stop the government from sweeping up personal information without having to present a compelling reason to a judge."

And McClatchy reports:

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its version of the bill next week, the first time since news about the surveillance broke last year that major legislation supported by top congressional leaders like this has come to the floor. The Senate might take up its own version as early as this summer.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee even issued a joint statement praising the bipartisan cooperation, a rarely seen trait around Congress these days.

But peek just past all the good will and there’s serious concern that Congress has much more to do. Not only are loopholes easy to find but also the government has other ways of collecting the data.

As Drake warns in his comments to the newspaper: “This could all end up as a shell game. It already has, in the past. Anytime these programs have been scrutinized, another authority or program becomes a back door.”

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