On June 2, 2015, the US Senate voted in favor of the USA FREEDOM Act—legislation that bans the bulk collection of records that has been practiced by the National Security Agency—and President Obama signed the bill into law. ARL is pleased that the Senate has passed the USA FREEDOM Act, without weakening provisions that protect privacy and civil liberties. Passage of this bill is the first step forward in meaningful surveillance reform. ARL looks forward to working with Congress on continued reforms to protect privacy and civil liberties.
Since 2006, the National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in the practice of bulk collection of phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, also known as the “library records” or “business records” provision. The 2015 USA FREEDOM Act specifically addresses this issue and prohibits bulk collection, only permitting limited surveillance orders that focus on a specific selection term. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit also addressed this issue recently, ruling that the NSA’s practice of bulk collection exceeded the authority under Section 215 and was therefore unlawful. The House of Representatives voted in favor of the USA FREEDOM Act on May 13. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) filibustered the bill on May 20 and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced four amendments to the act, none of which were approved by the Senate.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.