“If at first you don’t succeed…” USA FREEDOM Reform Odds in Senate Bolstered by Midnight Amendment to House Defense Appropriations Bill!

DD doesn’t know if Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) meditate but, if they do, “Try. Try Again.” could well be their mantras.

Unbowed by the House’s last minute gutting and passage of a fatally watered down version of the USA Freedom Act, they penned, promulgated and — just shy of midnight last night — overwhelmingly passed a stunning amendment to the Department of Defense’s appropriations bill barring the NSA from using any of its funding to continue its recently acknowledged warrantless “backdoor searches” of Americans’ communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  The amendment also prohibits the NSA from spending any of its funds to compel or ask private companies or groups, as it reportedly has been, to add technological “backdoors” to encryption software usually used to keep citizens safe from spying.

An achievement for its sponsors and a broad coalition of companies and groups that came together to lobby House Members quickly, the “Massie-Lofgren Amendment” also was a huge win for those companies and groups, ALA among them, now working hard in coalition to help Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy revise the House’s unacceptable version of the USA FREEDOM Act to, at an absolute minimum, truly end the “bulk collection” of Americans’ telephone call metadata and other electronic information.  By clearing the House with 293 aye votes to just 123 nays, Massie-Lofgren incontrovertibly demonstrates to Senators that a large majority of the House is likely to be receptive to a strengthened Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act.  (The House will be required to consider the bill again if passed in the Senate.)  That, it’s hoped, will make advocates’ and Senator Leahy’s “lift” just a bit lighter in the coming weeks.

The fact that the House’s brand new Majority Leader, Kevin MacCarthy, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were among the “yeas” for Massie-Lofgren won’t be lost on the Senate either.

While last night’s win was just that — and a big one — ALA and its coalition partners will have to fight intensely to keep Massie-Lofgren from being stripped out of the DoD appropriations bill in the future and for Senate passage of a USA FREEDOM Act that not only ends bulk collection, but also includes real transparency and provisions that assure meaningful participation on behalf of the public (as through a Special Advocate, for example) in secret court proceedings.  We’ll need your help.

Sign up now to be ready when the time is right to try . . . and try again!

Additional Background

NSA Restrictions Pass House by Large Margin
-U.S. News & World Report

About Adam Eisgrau

Adam Eisgrau is a veteran intellectual property and privacy policy lobbyist. Eisgrau assists the American Library Association in implementing strategic policy initiatives that engage decision makers and establish policy priorities, such as protecting reader privacy and supporting the fair use doctrine.

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