USA Freedom Act Shifts the Surveillance Game

By Caitlin Burke

Sweeping changes to U.S. surveillance laws are now in effect after being signed by President Barack Obama Tuesday.

In a rare shift of alliances, the USA Freedom Act passed Tuesday with both the support of the president and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., strongly opposed the legislation, saying it makes the U.S. less secure by taking away tools from our “warfighters.”

The law overhauls controversial government surveillance programs, most notably the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Under the new legislation, the NSA will slowly lose the power to collect and store those records over the next six months.

But the government can still get a warrant to gain access to the data connected to specific numbers by going through the phone companies, which typically store the records for 18 months.

The USA Freedom Act would continue other post-September 11 surveillance provisions that are considered more effective than the phone data collection program.

Those include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terror and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are throwing away cell phones to avoid surveillance.

“We’re in a new world. We are in the second decade of the 21st century, and we have to have the tools, living within that original Constitution, we have to have the tools in order to keep the country safe,” Charles E. Allen, principal at the Chertoff Group, said.

For now, the vote ends the fight on Capitol Hill between privacy and security-minded lawmakers.  Still, some lawmaker worry the USA Freedom Act doesn’t go far enough.

Report via CBN News

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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