Civil Liberties Advocates Say USA Freedom Act Falls Short on Reforming NSA Dragnet Surveillance

Posted June 10, 2015

MP3 Interview with Sue Udry, executive director, Defending Dissent Foundation, conducted by Scott Harris


In the congressional debate over reforming the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of American's phone communications, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's political miscalculations allowed three controversial provisions under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act to expire on June 1. However, the law was reinstated the next day when the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act, which the House had approved earlier. President Obama, who supported the bill, signed the USA Freedom Act into law that same day.

When the Freedom Act becomes effective in six months, the law mandates that telecommunications companies, not the government, will store phone metadata. The legislation also demands increased transparency from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has been criticized as a rubber stamp in approving government access to personal phone data. Under the new law, FISA Court judges will be allowed to, but not required, to appoint a "friend of the court" to argue on behalf of privacy concerns.

Demands for reform of the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' communications were bolstered by a May 7 ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, which found that the program was illegal. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Sue Udry, executive director of the Defending Dissent Foundation and acting director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Here, she assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the recently congressionally passed USA Freedom Act, and the reforms she says are still necessary to rein in the NSA's still secret surveillance programs.

For more information, visit Defending Dissent Foundation at

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