NACDL News: USA Freedom Act Is the Opening Salvo in Larger Bid to Reign in Surveillance State

After failing to enact legislation prior to the May 31 sunset of various surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act, on June 2 the U.S. Senate passed the USA Freedom Act, and the president signed it into law. This marks the first time in three decades that any meaningful restrictions have been placed on the surveillance power of the National Security Agency, in this case as relates to the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone data. Among other provisions, which were opposed by NACDL, the USA Freedom Act extends through 2019 the Patriot Act’s extraordinary “roving wiretaps” and “lone wolf” surveillance programs. The Act increases the maximum sentence to 20 years for violating the vague “material support” statute, a law so broad that it can criminalize pure speech and even ensnare those who for humanitarian reasons interact with a U.S. government-designated terror group for the purposes of aiding civilians within that group’s territorial control.