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Senate to Vote on Future of USA FREEDOM Act

telephone with sticker that says "this phone is tapped"
image © François Proulx

Today, November 18, 2014, the US Senate is expected to vote on a cloture motion by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685), determining whether the Senate will move forward with a vote on this important piece of legislation. The motion needs 60 votes to proceed to the floor. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) re-introduced a new version of the USA FREEDOM Act on July 29, 2014, which includes significant improvements over the version passed in the House (H.R. 3361) in May. Leahy’s bill, which has bipartisan support, provides for meaningful reform and protects civil liberties.

Leahy’s version of the USA FREEDOM Act would end the current practice of bulk collection of phone records and prevent bulk collection of other records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, also known as the “library records” or “business records” provision. Additionally S. 2685 would make several reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), such as requiring that unclassified summaries of FISC opinions include information necessary to understand the impact on civil liberties and creating a Special Advocate position charged with protecting privacy and civil liberties. Leahy’s bill also includes enhanced transparency provisions.

ARL, along with a broad coalition of advocacy groups, supports this bill (PDF) and has called for swift passage of this new version, without any dilution or amendment. The White House has now endorsed the bill, as well.

Senator Leahy’s USA FREEDOM Act represents a significant step forward in reforming National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance practices. ARL urges the Senate to move forward on the USA FREEDOM Act and pass the bill in its current form.

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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