|The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.|
H. R. 4681 Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.
Passed with 325 votes to 100.
Yep, it's pretty onerous and Orwellian, as is usual. It has slipped though Congress with scant attention and virtually no debate.
Section 309 is the most damning element. It contains enough outs and weasel words to allow the US intelligence community continue to break the US constitution forever. As mentioned, it is most troubling that this Act, with such a terrible Section, seemed to slip through Congress without too many people paying attention to the detail. Where was the debate?
The text is reproduced below, but here are a couple of highlights:
(1) Covered communication
The term covered communication means any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication, including communications in electronic storage.
A covered communication shall not be retained in excess of 5 years, unless—
(iii) the communication is enciphered or reasonably believed to have a secret meaning;
(vi) retention is necessary for technical assurance or compliance purposes...
(vii) retention for a period in excess of 5 years is approved by the head of the element of the intelligence community responsible for such retention...So, what do they do if they want to keep stuff for as long as they like? They can keep it forever by simply approving the retention themselves using (vii) above. They could keep anything just for technical assurance or for their own deemed compliance reasons (vi). Also, (iii) could easily be misinterpreted to provide their own basis for whatever they wish to do.
Of course, if you're one of the planet's 6.7 billion non-US citizens, there is no change. Your data continues to be owned by the greatest back-up and archival facility ever known to man:
(iv) all parties to the communication are reasonably believed to be non-United States personsWhat kind of parliament would let something like this slip through with virtually no debate? Distracted by Christmas, budget approvals and the torture debate? Quite clever of the intelligence community to manage the political agenda with enough clout to get this through. It reinforces the idea that security is a game of unrelenting persistence, patience and scheming. Well done NSA and friends.
Eisenhower would be turning in his grave.
PS: A late burst from Congress managed to get 100 people to provide futile resistance but it was too little, too late. The NO vote was split fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
PPS: Tim Berners-Lee on why internet freedom is important.