The “USA FREEDOM Act” (H.R. 3361) is now poised for a vote by the full House of Representatives on Thursday, May 22nd, barely two weeks since a deal was struck by their Chairmen to spring a new version from the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. As reported in District Dispatch on May 8, while the Committees’ new version of H.R. 3361 doesn’t make all of the changes in current law that ALA and other civil liberties advocates believe necessary to fully protect the American public’s privacy, it does take the important step of ending the “bulk collection” of telephone record data so sensationally disclosed in the press over the past year.
Before reaching the House floor, however, H.R. 3361, must first be considered by the powerful Rules Committee. Sources say that it is likely to make further changes in the bill, including some that could weaken the public protections afforded by the current Judiciary/Intelligence version of the bill. As always, the Rules Committee also will decide what further amendments to the legislation — if any — will be in order when the bill reaches the floor and all other terms of the floor debate.
Together with 32 of its library and other coalition partners, ALA wrote last week to all key House leaders and Members urging them to strengthen and clarify the Judiciary/Intelligence version of H.R. 3361 in the Rules Committee . . . and endorsing Congressional adoption of critical further privacy protections. The most sweeping of those recommendations are not likely to be accepted and included in the Rules Committee’s version of the bill that the full House will consider. The odds are good, however, that vital corrections urged by ALA and others will be made to assure that, at minimum, the USA FREEDOM Act will truly end the bulk collection of telephone data as Congress says it intends.
NOW is the time for all ALA members, friends, supporters and privacy protectors of all kinds to contact their Representatives in the House! Use the fast and friendly tools at ALA’s Legislative Action Center to easily find your Member of Congress and to tell him or her:
- correct and strengthen HR 3361 as recommended by ALA and its coalition partners in their joint letter to assure that it really will end bulk telephone data collection;
- don’t water the bill down by weakening key protections now in the bill; and
- pass more legislation later this year to restore the right legal balance between guarding our liberty and our security.