The NSA and other government agencies like it have been dealt yet with another near fatal blow. Just a week after the Court of Appeals agreed with the ACLU that the agency’s massive data collection spree was illegal, the House of Representative further reduces the NSA’s power. In an almost landslide vote of 338 to 88, the House passed what is known now as the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which imposes limits on what the government can and cannot demand in terms of private phone data.
To be clear, though, the content of phone calls are still legal fair game for these agencies. The Act, however, puts limits on the metadata, like time and date of call, that can be collected. This also applies to Internet metadata, much to the relief of the likes of Google. This practically puts a legal end to the bulk collection that the NSA was lambasted for.
The impetus for quickly passing the new Act is the June 1 expiration date of Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, used by the NSA and the like as legal grounds for its massive data collection activities. Lawmakers saw it as an opportunity to re-evaluate the current situation, while there are some who would wish to let it just die silently and ignominiously.
Of course, as the 88 votes showed, there are some who deny that there is a need to change the status quo at all. The usual tune of “for national defense” is being sung and some lawmakers are even working to extend the NSA’s powers.
Although the show of numbers alone is already devastating to the NSA, the fight is not yet over. The Freedom Act still has to pass the Senate, where some Republican members have already showed their opposition to the bill.