USA Freedom Act is Anything But
To get to the point: there is nothing -- nothing at all -- in any recent law or legislative action that will in any way weaken the police state structure our government has put into place for rapid deployment. You are not any more free than you were last week and, no matter what the Congress has done with the expired provisions of the Patriot Act or the newly developed and Orwellian-named "USA Freedom Act", you are not going to be any more free next week.
This week's big news is the expiration of the Patriot Act or actually a few of its provisions, since this humongous illustration of a fascist's wet dream is comprised of hundreds of laws that expire at different times. The provisions that have expired are, however, significant because they involve phone data capture that affects every U.S. citizen. The Congress had to renew those measures and they didn't, so the provisions are dead. In his most recent contribution to TCBH, my colleague Dave Lindorff presents a fuller picture of what those expirations really mean (and don't).
The expirations make the USA Freedom Act, which the Congress has now passed in apparent lieu of the expired Patriot Act provisions, apparently important. In fact, reading the commercial media, one would think that democracy lost had now been found and reinstalled. Reflecting that buzz, Business Insider said the vote "significantly reigns in the federal government's ability to spy on citizens".
But the USA Freedom Act is basically a public relations and discourse-control maneuver that changes almost nothing about surveillance or repression. It is the culmination of a cleverly orchestrated campaign of diversion which positioned the spying as an intrusion into the lives of the average citizen. It's certainly that but its true purpose is to gather information on opposition movements. So, while the law takes a small step back on general spying, it actually entrenches the data-collection on movements of protest and change by maintaining it and making it permanent.
Rather than a cause for celebration, this is a blaring alarm.
The hoopla is no surprise. After the revelations from whistle-blowers spewed like a volcanic eruption, the government began paying public attention to something it had been privately doing for more than a decade: illegally collecting data on all its citizens and much of the world's. For years now, it has used voracious data-gathering programs that tap Internet lines, hack servers and storage units and deploy a variety of tools to acquire every email sent over several of the most popular services (including the ubiquitous Gmail).
The revelations about all of this computer-based spying was trumped, however, by the revelations about phone data capture. The government has been capturing the numbers we are calling, the time of the calls and where we are when we make them. They capture this for every call made.