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USA FREEDOM Act Reintroduced in House and Senate; ARL Urges Swift Passage

telephone with sticker that says "this phone is tapped"
image CC-BY-NC-ND François Proulx

On April 28, 2015, members of the US House of Representatives and Senate introduced new versions of the USA FREEDOM Act. This legislation would put an end to the current bulk collection practices of the National Security Agency (NSA) taking place under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, also known as the “library records” or “business records” provision. ARL supports meaningful and effective surveillance reform, such as that provided by the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015.

Section 215 is currently set to sunset on June 1, 2015. However, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a bill last week that would reauthorize Section 215 through 2020 with no amendments to protect privacy or limit bulk collection of data. Bipartisan efforts have been underway to promote meaningful reform to Section 215 and other provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that impact civil liberties.

The current version of the USA FREEDOM Act represents a better version of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the last Congress. In May 2014, the House of Representatives passed a bill that had been severely watered down twice and resulted in many co-sponsors, as well as civil society organizations and associations including ARL, withdrawing their support for the bill. The Senate version of USA FREEDOM Act in the last Congress represented meaningful reform and would have advanced further transparency measures, but fell two votes shy of the necessary 60 votes for cloture. The current version of the USA FREEDOM Act is essentially a compromise between the House and Senate versions from the last Congress.

ARL supports this version of the USA FREEDOM Act because it would effectively end bulk collection of records under Section 215 and other authorities. It also provides some measure of transparency, providing for government reporting and declassification or summaries of FISA Court decisions. While the current version could go further in protecting civil liberties, as the 2014 Senate version did, the current USA FREEDOM Act still represents effective and meaningful reform and is highly improved from the version that passed the House of Representatives last year. ARL urges Congress to move swiftly to pass the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015, restore privacy and civil liberties, and ensure that bulk collections are no longer permitted.

This article originally appeared on the ARL Policy Notes blog on April 28, 2015.


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/.

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