President Barack Obama signed into law late Tuesday a major overhaul of the government’s electronic surveillance powers, ending a temporary lapse in surveillance authority but falling short of efforts by Republicans to maintain the status quo.
The USA Freedom Act had passed the Senate by a vote of 67 to 32 and effectively ends the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection efforts.
It provides a six-month transition period between the existing system and one where the data is stored and controlled by private telecommunications providers and available for the government to search on a case-by-case basis and only with the authority of a court order.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment and an important day for the U.S. technology industry,” Mark MacCarthy, vice president of public policy at the Software and Information Industry Alliance, said in a statement. “This legislation will both safeguard our country and ensure that individual privacy protections are upheld. Because it will restore international trust in American businesses, sensible surveillance reform is not only a security issue, but is also an important economic concern.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was unsuccessful in convincing members of the House to support three amendments to the House-passed USA Freedom Act that would provide 12 months to switch to a new system operated by the private sector, require the director of national intelligence to certify that the new system works as intended and mandates that private telecom providers notify the government at least six months in advance of changing their data retention policies.