Trevor Timm writes: This week was undoubtedly a turning point in the NSA debate. Edward Snowden said it himself on Monday, as some of the NSA’s most ardent defenders, including the House Intelligence Committee and the White House, suddenly released similar proposals endorsing the end of the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records as we know it.
Stopping the government from holding onto of all Americans’ phone metadata would undoubtedly be a good thing for American privacy, but if you read between the legislative lines, the government might not be curtailing mass surveillance so much as permanently entrenching it in American law.
Rep Justin Amash, one of the NSA’s leading critics in the House, said of the Intelligence Committee bill: “It doesn’t end bulk collection but actually puts more Americans in danger of having their constitutionally protected rights violated.” While the Obama plan is undoubtedly more promising, with court requests and much more, Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union has several important questions about the proposal that need to be answered before anyone will really be able to judge. And the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez detailed why neither of these proposals are as good as the USA Freedom Act, which may now be getting boxed out. [Continue reading…]