On the same day a federal court ruled against the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone data, Hillary Clinton joined the White House in endorsing a bill to roll back mass surveillance.
“Congress should move ahead now with the USA Freedom Act — a good step forward in ongoing efforts to protect our security & civil liberties,” Clinton wrote on Twitter Thursday.
The USA Freedom Act would end the NSA’s bulk collection of data under the Patriot Act’s controversial Section 215. The section is set to expire June 1 unless Congress takes action, and momentum is building around the rollback measure.
The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee with a lopsided 25-2 vote, while a Senate version was recently introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by libertarian Republican Mike Lee and senior Democrat Patrick Leahy.
However, a similar bill failed in Congress last year and opposition from hawkish Republicans in the Senate will likely force supporters to secure at least 60 votes as a means of overcoming a filibuster.
The White House also threw its support behind the bill this week. White House press secretary Josh Earnest has called bill “commonsense” reform and wrote on Twitter Thursday that President Obama thinks “Congress shld pass USA Freedom Act.”
Some civil libertarians say the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough, however, claiming that it only scratches the surface.
Earlier Thursday, a federal court in New York ruled that the NSA’s bulk data collection under Section 215 is illegal. It was the first such ruling and could set an important precedent.
Clinton left the State Department before NSA leaker Edward Snowden made the agency’s snooping a major political issue. But she has been asked about bulk collection since and tried to find a balance between defending the agency’s work and acknowledging the concerns of many Americans, especially in the Democratic base.
In April of last year, Clinton said Snowden’s leaks likely helped — “intentionally or unintentionally” — terror groups. “I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority,” she added, referring to Snowden.
When asked about the NSA during an appearance in Silicon Valley this year, Clinton called for reform. “Well, I think the NSA needs to be more transparent about what it is doing, sharing with the American people, which it wasn’t. And I think a lot of the reaction about the NSA, people felt betrayed,” she told Re/Code’s Kara Swisher at a tech conference.