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Coalitions Support Leahy’s USA FREEDOM Bill for Surveillance Reform

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image © François Proulx

This week, ARL joined two groups of organizations that engage on privacy and surveillance issues in letters to US Congressional leadership expressing support for the compromise version of the USA FREEDOM Act introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on July 29, 2014 (S. 2685). The July 29 letter focuses on the enhanced transparency provision (PDF) and the July 30 letter addresses the bill more comprehensively (PDF). Both letters urge Congress to act swiftly and pass the new version of the bill, without any dilution or amendment. 

The groups did not support the version of the USA FREEDOM Act passed by the House of Representatives in May because the bill did not protect privacy and civil liberties as strongly as prior versions. The Senate bill includes more effective language to protect civil liberties via greater transparency and by limiting bulk collection of records. The July 29 letter notes that the Senate bill does not “take all the steps needed to restore democratic accountability to NSA surveillance…But if signed into law, it will be the most important step Congress has taken to reform surveillance, and secrecy about surveillance, since the passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001.”

For analysis of the specific improvements introduced in the Leahy version of the bill, see the July 29 ARL Policy Notes blog post by Krista Cox, “Senator Leahy Introduces New Version of USA FREEDOM Act, Includes Significant Improvements Over House Version,” (updated July 31). 


On June 18, ARL joined 36 organizations in a letter (PDF) to US Senate leadership expressing concerns with the version of the USA FREEDOM Act passed by the House of Representatives on May 22 (H.R. 3361).

On June 4, as the Senate was beginning deliberations on the USA FREEDOM Act, ARL joined 23 organizations in an earlier letter (PDF) to Senate leadership regarding the bill.

On May 22, after the House passed H.R. 3361, ARL issued a statement detailing its concerns with the legislation.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 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/.

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