EFF in the News
This ruling prompted some rethinking of the USA Freedom Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The group had previously endorsed each iteration of the act, increasingly reluctantly as it was watered down with each session. In response to the court ruling, though, EFF withdrew its support and went neutral, calling for legislators to now strengthen the act.
Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst for EFF who has been writing about the USA Freedom Act, still has positive things to say about it, but doesn't want Congress to settle for less than it has to. It's the first reform of NSA surveillance since the 1970s. There should be more to it.
"The USA Freedom Act should be stronger," Jaycox says. "Congress should be pushing for more control for themselves and more for the public." EFF would like Congress to return to the first iteration of the act that called for a stronger adversarial position within the FISA court, not just an adviser. They want Congress to address other authorizations used to justify bulk metadata collection, not just Section 215 and National Security Letters. They want better "minimization" procedures to make sure information that isn't directly connected to an investigation is properly purged. And they want to remove an "emergency exception" that allows the government to snoop on any "non-United States person" for 72 hours without any court authorization at all.
“What happened to Garcia was awful. And we can all agree on that,” says Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who also wrote a legal brief defending Google and YouTube in the dispute. “But the court took a bad situation for one person and made it a bad situation for a lot of people.”
Considering how everybody on the Internet knows that the mark of a good troll is that you can’t even tell if they’re for real, what constitutes threatening the president, as opposed to just exercising your constitutionally-protected free speech?
Legally speaking, that’s a grey area that will likely get a little more color in the next few weeks. “Basically, the First Amendment does not protect true threats: any statement that conveys an intent to do harm or physical injury,” Hanni Fakhoury, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Daily Dot. “What makes this particularly complicated and interesting is the Supreme Court is considering a case of whether a person actually had to show the threat of harm with Elonis v. United States.”
Roberts declined to comment Monday when reached at his Denver, Colorado, office. In a statement issued through his attorney, he said his "only interest has been to improve aircraft safety."
"Given the current situation, I've been advised against saying more," said the statement provided by Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Attorney Andrew Crocker with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet rights advocacy group, told CNN that Roberts was not available for an interview but offered a brief statement from his client: "Over last 5 years my only interest has been to improve aircraft security. Given the current situation I've been advised against saying more."
"Remember, this is a computer in your pocket," said Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Treat it as such. Use the common sense security practices that you would use on your computer."
'Everything can be criminalised'
The new bill is part of a wave of new cyber-crime legislation and concerns over digital surveillance across the world, said Jillian York, director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) digital rights group.
"Unfortunately it's part of a larger global trend - bills that criminalise actions that take place online more severely than those that take place offline. The thing is crime is crime. Libel is libel, theft is theft, and it doesn't make sense to create new laws for actions just because they take place on the internet," York told Al Jazeera.
“I think what’s next is for the Senate to take up USA Freedom and potentially strengthen it,” said Mark M. Jaycox, legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF recently pulled its support of the FREEDOM Act as it’s currently written, hoping for stronger reforms to be written into the bill, while applauding the Second Circuit court ruling. “The Senate has less than two weeks to get its act together. Senator McConnell can prove that the Senate is a functional body under his leadership by quickly supporting, and moving, for a vote on USA Freedom,” Jaycox said.
“I think what’s important is that it adds to the growing consensus that digital information triggers different legal requirements, or that it requires a different sort of analysis, in that you can’t just analogize to a backpack. Your suitcase and your clothes are not the same thing as your computer,” said Hanni Fakhoury, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed papers in support of Vargas, said he and the EFF are pleased that the Justice Department has decided to drop the case.
"Prolonged warrantless video surveillance of the exterior of a person's home violates the Fourth Amendment as the District Court correctly found."