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USA 'Freedom Act' spying programme explained

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USA 'Freedom Act' spying programme explained



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US intelligence services’ sweeping surveillance powers, controversially exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, expired on Monday (June 1).

The powers – enshrined in the Patriot Act that was introduced in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – were used by the National Security Agency (NSA)to collect, in bulk, the telephone records of millions of Americans.

It is expected to be replaced by the Freedom Act, a watered-down version of its predecessor that is expected to reign in US intelligence services.

What will the change in legislation mean for NSA’s powers? Euronews delves into the detail to look at what’s new:

Getting access to Americans’ phone records…

The new act is designed to stop the NSA from collecting in bulk the business records, for example phone call data.

Before, spooks could collect business records as long as they are relevant to their investigations.

The new USA Freedom Act requires any NSA data requests to specify a person, account or device.

On top of this, the NSA will also have to prove the person or account is linked to terrorism.

Presenting the counter argument…

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts, which rule on spooks’ requests, will have to appoint five individuals (friends of court or public advocates) to fill the current void of not having anyone to present the counter argument for the collection of intelligence.

Transparency of surveillance…

A annual report will required giving details of the extent of the NSA’s spying activities, providing doing so does not threaten national security.

Lone wolf provisions…

The new act expands the definition of ‘agent of a foreign power’ to help security services monitor lone wolf operators, such as those behind the Boston Marathon bombings.

Roving wiretaps…

The bill will also extend provisions for roving wiretaps, which allow intelligence services to follow suspects even when they regularly change communication devices.

What’s in an acronym?

Lots, if you’re a lawmaker in the US.

The USA PATRIOT Act, the surveillance law that has expired, stood for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.

It’s expected replacement, the USA FREEDOM Act, is not an improvement, in terms of words, anyway. It stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act.


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