On Wednesday, the U.S. House voted with an overwhelming majority (338 votes for and 88 against) to end Federal Government data dragnet under the National Security Agency (NSA) supervision.
Last year, a similar legislation proposal heavily backed by President Obama passed the House but was countered by the U.S. Senate. This time however, the Senate with its majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell faces a slightly different scenario under increasing pressure of the Patriot Act provisions expiring on June 1st.
The U.S. Patriot Act which was drafted in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, provisioned under Section 215 that a targeted program would be needed for intelligence agencies to gather mass data from targeted individuals and groups under the approval of the national security court, FISA. Under this provision, bulk data was gathered on individuals on the territory of the United States in utmost secrecy. Both President Obama and former President George W. Bush renewed the mandate that allowed secret intelligence services to breach the privacy of both U.S. citizens and people finding themselves on U.S. territory.
With the bill passing this Wednesday through the U.S. House, the scene is set for the U.S. Senate to adopt the legislation that would prescribe bulk data collection by the NSA. Instead, it is envisioned that the same metadata could be accessed by the private sector, mainly telecommunication giants such as AT&T, Sprint or Verizon that keep the data for billing purposes for a period of 18 months to 5 years.
It can be stated that a compromise has been reached. While the disclosure of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden partly drove the change, the House bill would not wipe dragnet data fully off the chart. FISA could still approve requests from intelligence services or spy agencies with view to data relevant for a certain investigation.
President Barrack Obama is supporting the bill and its passing through the Senate. With Senator McConnell staunchly opposing the bill passing into legislation, analysts say that a favorable majority could still be gathered.
A filibuster-proof majority is the desired outcome when the votes are counted. The Republican Party is splintered on the matter. The two prominent characters that are driving legislation find themselves holding to different grounds. With the Senate Majority leader advising against the passing of the bill, Senator Ted Cruz eagerly supports it. At least ten other Republicans have been placed in the pool favoring the bill. The Democrats camp is at large supportive.
If the House bill passes the Senate and is transcribed into legislation the U.S. would see the most significant advances since the governmental backed privacy breaches were disclosed by Edward Snowden.
Image Source: Politico