The US freedom Act was signed by Barack Obama on June 2, 2015. Many of the legislative points in Patriot Act expired in 2015 when this law was passed.
The reason to dissolve the Patriot Act was its clashing legal aspects by the court. For instance, the United States of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2015 found that the Act’s section 215 could not be used to authenticate the bulk collection of US citizen’s phone record.
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act is commonly known as ‘Freedom Act’. It has reauthorized most of the parts of US Patriot Act but has some prominent new objectives and removal of some previous legislative points.
The US Freedom Act has recalled some of the rules which were enacted with the Patriot Act. According to Freedom Act;
- The bulk collection of American’s telephone records and internet metadata is banned.
- The government’s data collection is limited to the “greatest extent reasonably practical”. This means that the government could not collect the data belonging to the particular service provider or extended geographical areas such as city or area code.
The New Additions
Freedom Act injects some new laws contrasting to the previously existing Patriot Act.
- If the government can prove the availability of ‘reasonable’ suspicion that the suspect is associated to the terrorist organization then they could access the call records of that person from a phone company but only up to ‘two hops’ of data.
- It contains new reporting requirements for the government to Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities.
- The Act provides increased opportunities to the private companies to publicly report information about the number of FISA orders they have received.
- The FISA court opinions which encompass major legal interpretations are declassified. Yet, it demands a summary if the declassification is not possible.
- In the matter of novel or major legal issues, the law requires an appropriate panel of “amicus curiae’ to represent the public interest. These amicus curiae should not be less than five individuals.
- The maximum penalty for financial or material support to terrorism is increased from 15 to 20 years.
- The expiry of provisions – section 215, roving wiretaps and the lone wolf surveillance authority is extended till December 2019.
The US Freedom Act was basically a reaction to the claim of NSA’s bulk surveillance on foreign as well as US citizens which was made by Edward Snowden. This news provoked a mass backlash on the agency.
This law was praised by many privacy advocates as they consider it ‘the most significant US national security reform measure in the last generation”. Yet, some legislators claim that the US Freedom Act doesn’t expand far enough, especially in terms of affecting PRISM or other surveillance programs running under section 702 of FISA.