Sad but unsurprising

Sad but unsurprising

by digby

From The Hill:
Privacy advocates that have pushed for legislation to reform U.S. government surveillance are backing away from a House bill that they say has been "watered-down" as it heads to the floor.

Though the original bill intended to end sweeping surveillance programs, the bill that the House will vote on as early as this week allows for “mass surveillance on a slightly smaller scale,” according to Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The bill — the USA Freedom Act, authored by Patriot Act Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) — was originally written to prohibit the U.S. government's sweeping surveillance program.
But after moving through the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, where it saw some changes but retained the support of privacy advocates, last minute negotiations between House leadership and the Obama administration have left the bill with weakened language when it comes to banning mass surveillance, advocates say.

On Tuesday, Sensenbrenner filed a manager’s amendment at the House Rules Committee to be considered on the floor in place of the bill that passed the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

Sensenbrenner’s amendment still prohibits bulk collection but would allow government officials to search for records using “a discrete term, such as a term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device, used by the Government to limit the scope of the information or tangible things sought.”

While the standard in Sensenbrenner's amendment is more specific than the one under current law, it leaves too much room for interpretation, as opposed to earlier versions of the bill, Geiger said.

It may keep the intelligence community from sweeping surveillance on a national level, but “it is ambiguous enough to allow for large scale collection,” he said.

“Ambiguity is what got us into this mess in the first place,” he said, referring to a controversial National Security Agency program that collected information about Americans’ phone calls.

This is why "oversight" will never be the only answer or even the main answer. As we saw after the Church Commission, we will probably see some slight improvement, for a time. But as long as the US is the dominant global super power this is a battle that will have to be fought over and over again just to keep it from going totally over to the dark side. If we're lucky.

Also too, the $$$$. See: Enmptywheel