After a half-year in stasis, the USA Freedom Act — the most aggressive of various NSA reform measures — is headed for markup by the House Judiciary Committee.

Markup is a process by which lawmakers make speeches and offer amendments, and it’s the first tremor of life the Freedom Act has shown since October. The bill was authored by Republican James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who also wrote the Patriot Act, which has been used to justify the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.

His new bill, which has 143 co-sponsors, according to The Hill, would rewrite Section 215 of the Patriot Act and part of the FISA act to limit NSA overreach. It would also provide immunity and compensation for those companies that cooperate with surveillance agencies.

A twin bill in the Senate is stuck while Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s FISA Improvements Act gains steam. Feinstein has been a staunch supporter of the NSA and accused leaker Edward Snowden of treason, so it should not surprise that the Electronic Frontier Foundation considers her reform bill a phony. “Senator Dianne Feinstein’s FISA Improvements Act (FIA) codifies some of the worst interpretations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), one of the laws governing the NSA’s spying,” warns the digital rights watchdog.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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