The USA Freedom Act was a very timid curb on surveillance powers, but it was also the first time since the 1970s that Congress limited spies' powers -- and it won't be the last.
This week, the House of Reps easily passed a pair of amendments to an appropriations bill that put more brakes on spy power: one prohibits the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from collaborating with the CIA or NSA to weaken crypto; the other bans the FBI or DOJ from spending money to force companies to change their products to make them easier to snoop on.
Separately, the House also passed Jared Polis's [D-CO] amendment that prohibits the DEA from engaging in mass surveillance.
These amendments still have to get through the Senate, whose leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY] is a staunch defender of unchecked, unlimited power for spy agencies. But it's still a big deal: the spy agencies are in desperate need of adult supervision, and the ease with which these amendments passed tells us that Congress isn't done with America's spooks -- it's just getting started.
Also, one other interesting amendment also appears to have passed easily by voice vote, which is an amendment put forth by Jared Polis, and would make it clear that the DEA cannot do bulk collection under its subpoena authority. As was detailed a few weeks ago, for many years, the DEA had been using this authority to collect tons of phone records, and the program only ended once the administration realized that the claims it was using in support of the NSA's bulk collection didn't apply to the DEA's collection, and thus they couldn't really continue it. Polis's amendment means that this particular loophole is closed for good (not that others might still be open...).
House Overwehelmingly Passes Amendments Blocking Funding For Undermining Encryption [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]
(Image: The Big E Day 2 2011,
Rusty Clark - Back In One Piece, CC-BY; icon: Halt! Vorfahrt achten! StVO 1956, PD)
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