The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

'Patriot Act,' 'Freedom Act' -- or a 'Government Shell Game'

AP reports: "Eight days after blocking it, Senate Republicans have agreed to begin debate on a House bill that would overhaul the National Security Agency's handling of American calling records while preserving other domestic surveillance provisions.


AP reports: "Eight days after blocking it, Senate Republicans have agreed to begin debate on a House bill that would overhaul the National Security Agency's handling of American calling records while preserving other domestic surveillance provisions.

"But that remarkable turnabout didn't happen soon enough to prevent the laws governing the programs from expiring at midnight Sunday as Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential contender, stood in the way of extending the program, angering his GOP colleagues and frustrating intelligence and law enforcement officials.

"Now, the question is whether the Senate will pass a bill the House can live with. If so, the surveillance programs will resume, with some significant changes in how the phone records are handled. If not, they will remain dormant.

"The Senate vote on the measure known as the USA Freedom Act can come no earlier than 1 a.m., Tuesday. Senate Republican aides said they expected some amendments, but no major revisions to the bill." See CNN report.

See Obama's radio address backing the so-called USA Freedom Act.

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe and his fellow NSA whistlblower Bill Binney made several key public disclosures regarding NSA's massive surveillance program. Wiebe said today: "The larger picture is that the government is playing a shell game, essentially doing what it wants with or without USA Freedom, and that unless we achieve comprehensive review of intelligence policies, we are essentially not improving much in the way of privacy. That's not to say a victory in defeating parts of the Patriot Act is not important, just that it leaves much to be done by a Congress that doesn't like being held accountable.

"The whole matter would be moot if the government would adopt an intelligence production process from collection through analysis that was in line with the Constitution -- that the technology exists to do just that, even addressing judicial review (not FISA, but regular Article III court) within seconds, thus mooting the Haydens out there who say the regular court review process takes too long. That fact -- that the problem is solvable with today's technology -- portrays the existing proponents of keeping Patriot or just modifying it slightly as in Freedom as either incompetent, or possessing hidden agendas, or just not interested in defending the Constitution."

Wiebe will be taking part in Stand Up for Truth events this week, a series of events to support whistleblowing; he and Bill Binney will be on the last of a series of webcasts that being Tuesday evening. Talks are being held in Chicago and a "Chalkupy" event is happening in Los Angeles. Other webcast participants include EPA whistlblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, and State Department whistleblower Matthew Hoh. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg will be with a group of whistleblowers speaking in London, Oslo, Stockholm and Berlin. IPA is a co-organizer of these events. For a full schedule, see:

SUE UDRY, sue.udry at
Executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, Udry said today: "Hundreds of thousands of Americans have joined the debate over unwarranted mass surveillance in the last two weeks, and over the last two years since the first Snowden revelations. Civic participation has forced Congress to take a little more time before re-authorizing a law that flagrantly violates the Constitution.

"But ultimately, Congress ignored the American people, and ignored the fact that Section 215 has not been shown to be a necessary tool to fight terrorism.

"Although amendments to improve the USA Freedom Act may ultimately be approved, the FBI, NSA and other intelligence agencies will be allowed to continue to collect private information about Americans who are under no suspicion of crime.

"Worse, Congress continues to operate in willful ignorance, refusing to demand a full accounting of all surveillance programs our intelligence agencies are using to gather information about innocent Americans. It is long since time for a new Church Committee to investigate what intelligence agencies are doing.

"Beyond the mass surveillance authorities in the bill, we are concerned that transparency provisions are inadequate, and specifically exempt the FBI. This is particularly galling given a Department of Justice Inspector General report released two weeks ago that confirms the FBI has been using Section 215 to collect internet records in bulk, and violated the law regarding minimizing records for seven years."

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.