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Senators Are Our Only Hope

Publication Date: 
May 22, 2014
The Guardian
Trevor Timm

The Guardian quotes CIS Director of Civil Liberties Jennifer Granick on the influence of lobbyists in surveillance reform.

In just over two weeks, the bill known as the USA Freedom Act – formerly the best chance to pass meaningful NSA reform in Congress – has gone from strong, to weak, to horrible. So naturally, after months of stalling the once-promising bill, the House of Representatives rushed to pass a gutted version on Thursday.

Now that the bill has passed, the NSA's biggest supporters will surely line up to call this legislation "reform" so they can go back to their angry constituents and pretend they did something about mass surveillance, while really just leaving the door open for it to continue. But the bill is still a long way from the president's desk. If the Senate refuses to pass a strengthened version of the USA Freedom Act this summer, reformers should consider what 24 hours ago was unthinkable: abandon the bill and force Section 215 of the Patriot Act to expire once and for all in 2015. Because it's one thing to pass a weak bill, but it's entirely another to pass off smoke and mirrors as progress.


But putting our faith in Congress, whether it's now or in a year, is a risky proposition either way. As Stanford law professor Jennifer Granick wrote on Wednesday:

[I]t's worth asking why legislative surveillance reform has so far failed, despite huge support in Congress and in the public for ending bulk collection. What does this say about our political system, and about the influence of intelligence agency lobbying despite public sentiment in favor of more restraint?