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USA Freedom Act should spur complete surveillance overhaul

    May 13, 2015

    Passage of the USA Freedom Act has to be the beginning, not the end of real surveillance reform, Amnesty International said today, as the bill passed a House of Representatives vote.

    The act attempts to end indiscriminate bulk collection of phone call records but does not cover many other aspects of government mass surveillance revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013—including the surveillance of millions of people around the world.

    "This vote shows the tide is turning against surveillance. But the USA cannot simply tinker with an abusive system. We need proper checks and balances that are cut out for the digital age," said Naureen Shah, Director of Amnesty International USA's Security and Human Rights Programme.

    “There are significant limitations to the bill, which should by no means be seen as a sufficient reform. It neither sufficiently reins in the collection of personal data beyond phone records nor ensures meaningful oversight of security agents by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

    “It is almost two years since the Snowden revelations showed that US government monitoring of the world’s internet communications is out-of-control. A new system must be transparent and truly protective, so that people can again feel confident in their right to live free from government intrusion into their private lives.”

    The USA Freedom Act does not address global surveillance, including the need to protect the privacy of non-US citizens from mass surveillance. Amnesty International calls on governments to ban all indiscriminate mass surveillance of communications.

    The bill also includes a sentencing increase for the offense of material support of terrorism. The USA has used material support laws in overly broad ways that raise concerns about freedom of expression and association.

    Background

    On 7 May 2015, the US court of appeals ruled that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records was illegal.

     

    For more information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca