Skip to main content

Originally published Friday, May 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Editorial: Finally, a leash on NSA’s bulk data collection

Ending bulk data collection by the National Security Agency resets the balance between privacy and national security.

Seattle Times Editorial

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
If all that this editorial asserts is true, it is hard to see why Snowden's actions should be considered criminal, or... MORE
Snowden deserves the Nobel Prize. The people's government needs to stop spying on Citizens. Spying on me is not... MORE


EDWARD Snowden really knows how to bring a room together.

On Wednesday, that room was the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee chambers, where, by a bipartisan 32-0 vote, members approved a bill that would effectively end one of the most controversial spying programs Snowden exposed.

The USA Freedom Act is a landmark step toward ending the National Security Agency’s once-secret, warrantless bulk data collection. The bill instead requires a judge’s permission for specific, targeted searches of all electronic records.

It is an imperfect compromise, granting the NSA trust it has not earned. It sheds too dim of a light on transparency. More work is needed.

But that compromise, as displayed by Wednesday’s unanimous vote, does not break along traditional partisan lines. The Snowden revelations split apart Congress’ default protection of the intelligence establishment, allowing populist outrage to filter into the staid halls of the Capitol.

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, a former Microsoft executive, served the interests of the technology sector in her home district with a good amendment to the bill. It allows private companies more freedom to divulge data they are forced to hand over to intelligence agencies. The tech sector, including Microsoft, lobbied vigorously for the change after feeling the wrath of consumers when it appeared too complicit in the NSA’s snooping.

The USA Freedom Act is a belated, but welcome, reset of Congress’ weak oversight of intelligence agencies. Bulk phone metadata was being Hoovered up without court oversight, by the George W. Bush administration, and was continued into the Obama administration.

Obama now pledges to sign a bill ending that practice. Good. The balance between privacy and national security was tipped dangerously toward the latter by 9/11 and the U.S. Patriot Act.

It took Snowden, dumping NSA files from Russia without love, to begin tipping it back. His methods were criminal, but his results are unequivocal.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

 Subscribe today!

Subscribe today!

99¢ for four weeks of unlimited digital access.



The Seattle Times photographs

Seattle space needle and mountains

Purchase The Seattle Times images

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►