What’s going on here? A proposal floated by Reps Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersburger supposedly to curtail the bulk phone record collection may, according to some, actually expand surveillance. Let’s look at this more closely. It’s no secret that surveillance was out of control under section 215 of the Patriot Act and that, thankfully, the whistle was blown. Progress was purportedly being made to end these practices. But it seems that the Rogers/Ruppersburger bill may, instead expand surveillance activities under the guise of stopping them. Trevor Timm, for one, asks, ’Why is a bill that’s supposedly about ending bulk collection of phone call data focused on more collection of data from internet companies?”. A fair question.
According to some the bill, while seemingly focused on ending data collection abuses, is in fact riddled with ambiguities and loopholes. For certain, if the government’s intent is to keep collecting metadata in bulk, it would have the means to do so within the parameters of the statute as it’s now written. It would not take a great deal of lawyering to do so. This is the direction things are heading if the FISC were to be as accommodating as it has been in the past. As it is presented the bill critically eliminates the required link to a required investigation. The investigation should revolve around whether, in the case of US citizens, it is for counterterror or counterespionage purposes.
The statute as now configured appears to be a superficial attempt to end bulk collection of data and records. At the same time it erases many obstacles to prevent even greater bulk collection by authorities. And it does so with less oversight and fewer remedies against such abuse.
These developments are worrisome and all those who treasure freedom and champion privacy should be outraged. It might be pointed out that Reps. Rogers and Ruppersburger are two of the staunchest NSA defenders in the House. Maybe it’d time for a change in the way this problem is examined. Or at the very least the topic deserves more debate and more inclusion and input from pro-privacy groups.