The USA Freedom Act is a U.S. law enacted on June 2, 2015 that restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act, which had expired the day before. The act imposes some new limits on the bulk collection of telecommunication metadata on U.S. citizens by American intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency. It also restores authorization for roving wiretaps and tracking lone wolf terrorists.〔http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/02/411534447/senateis-poised-to-vote-on-house-approved-usa-freedom-act?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=npr&utm_medium=social&utm_term=nprnews〕 The title of the act originally was a ten-letter backronym (USA FREEDOM) that stood for "''Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act.''".
The bill was originally introduced in both houses of the U.S. Congress on October 29, 2013, following publication of classified NSA memos describing bulk data collection programs leaked by Edward Snowden that June. When it was re-introduced in the 114th Congress (2015-2016), it was described by the bill sponsors as "a balanced approach"〔 while being questioned for extending the Patriot Act through the end of 2019.〔 Supporters of the bill said that the House Intelligence Committee and House leadership〔 would insist on reauthorizing all Patriot Act powers except bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.〔 Critics assert that mass surveillance of the content of Americans' communication will continue under Section 702 of FISA which does not expire until 2017〔 and Executive Order 12333〔 due to the "unstoppable surveillance-industrial complex"〔 despite the fact that a bipartisan majority of the House had previously voted to close backdoor mass surveillance.〔
Chairman Goodlatte. The chair thanks the gentleman, and recognizes himself. The legislation before us today was carefully and painstakingly negotiated not just amongst members of this committee, but with our colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee and the intelligence community.
Mr. Conyers. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I oppose this amendment because it is not part of the delicate compromise that Chairman Goodlatte, Representatives Sensenbrenner, Nadler, and myself reached with the House Intelligence Committee and House leadership. After months of negotiation, we agreed on legislation that we believe can pass the House, pass the Senate, and become law.
Ms. Lofgren. This is an issue where a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans voted on the floor to approve this very same thing.
Ms. Lofgren. This amendment is identical to the Massie Lofgren amendment in last year's DoD appropriations bill, which passed the House 293 to 123, but it was ultimately stripped out. 21 members of this committee actually voted for that amendment when it was on the floor. Clearly a vast majority of Congress supports closing the backdoor.〕
Section 215 bulk collection authority expired June 1, 2015, but in the event that the Obama administration is successful in restarting it, USA Freedom enacts a ban on such collection activities which “shall take effect on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act”.〔http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/03/nsa-surveillance-fisa-court〕
Many members of Congress believed that in the wake of the Snowden disclosures, restoration of public trust would require legislative changes.〔 More than 20 bills have been written since the disclosures began with the goal of clarifying government surveillance powers.〔
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, who introduced the USA PATRIOT Act (H.R. 3162) in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks to give more power to US intelligence agencies, and who has described himself as "author of the Patriot Act," declared that it was time to put the NSA's "metadata program out of business." With its bulk collection of Americans' phone data, Sensenbrenner asserted that the intelligence community "misused those powers," had gone "far beyond" the original intent of the legislation, and had "overstepped its authority."
An opinion piece by Leahy and Sensenbrenner, published in ''Politico'', described the impetus for proposed changes, saying:
The intelligence community has failed to justify its expansive use of (FISA and Patriot Act ) laws. It is simply not accurate to say that the bulk collection of phone records has prevented dozens of terrorist plots. The most senior NSA officials have acknowledged as much in congressional testimony. We also know that the FISA court has admonished the government for making a series of substantial misrepresentations to the court regarding these programs. As a result, the intelligence community now faces a trust deficit with the American public that compromises its ability to do its job. It is not enough to just make minor tweaks around the edges. It is time for real, substantive reform.
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