East Hawaii News

Hawaii House Members Critical of Freedom Act Changes

May 22, 2014, 12:35 PM HST
* Updated May 22, 12:36 PM
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Hawaii’s two members of the US House of Representatives today voted against an amended version of the USA Freedom Act, legislation originally designed to rein in the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ personal information.

Democratic Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa, co-sponsors of the bill introduced in October 2013, were both critical of recent changes to the bill made by the House Judiciary Committee.

Gabbard described the version passed 302-121 today by the GOP-controlled House as “fundamentally altered.”

“The USA FREEDOM Act I voted against today is a far cry from the legislation I co-sponsored, and does not rein in the bulk collection of our personal information – in fact, it does the opposite, ” Gabbard said in a statement.

“While proponents claim the bill does end some bulk collection, the fact is that it still allows the government to obtain innocent Americans’ personal data, to include phone and email data,” she said.

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According to Gabbard, the bill would allow the government to collect data with very broad search terms such as an entire area code, emails with key words or whole states or regions of the country.

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“That kind of data collection is not ‘specific’ at all; it is the opposite of specific, leaving the door open for continued overreach and abuse,” she said.

“Ultimately, our objective is to keep our country and people safe,” Gabbard said. “This is not a choice between civil liberties and national security. We still have yet to hear of a single example of how national security has been strengthened by allowing bulk data collection.”

“We have a responsibility to do better as we strike the balance between national security and upholding the values that make our country strong,” she said.

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Hanabusa issued a statement saying she refused to vote for the “twice watered-down version” of the bill.

“Though the original legislation intended to end sweeping surveillance programs, this version leaves open the opportunity to continue mass surveillance of Americans on a smaller scale,” she said.

Hanabusa noted that as introduced, the bill would also have allowed the Patriot Act to expire in 2015, but the amended version extends it through the end of 2017.

“I believe the PATRIOT Act should be repealed immediately, and I have voted to do so in Congress,” she said.

Hanabusa said tech groups and privacy advocacy organizations that once supported the original USA Freedom Act – including Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amnesty International – have pulled their support of this new version, saying the modified bill doesn’t go far enough to limit government collection of Internet users’ data.

She said the bill now goes to the Senate where Sen. Patrick Leahy, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has promised to restore the bill’s original intent.

Hanabusa said that is needed “to make the proper, responsible reforms needed to our intelligence community.”

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