Congress Votes to End NSA Metadata Storage While Putin Seizes Control of Russian Bloggers and Websites

If you happen to be a fan of Edward Snowden, yesterday was either a great day or a terrible day. A great day if you’re an American, a terrible day if you’re Russian.

Last night, the House Judiciary Committee passed the USA Freedom Act in a unanimous bipartisan committee vote. The bill, introduced by USA PATRIOT Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), is designed to end the National Security Agency’s metadata storage program, an unforeseen and, needless to say controversial offshoot of Section 215 of Sensenbrenner’s PATRIOT Act.

Instead of storing the metadata (phone numbers along with the date and time of the calls) in the secure NSA facility at Fort Meade, Maryland, the telecoms would continue as they always have to store the metadata privately and NSA would only be allowed to search the telecom databases for a particular phone number after acquiring an individual warrant from the FISA Court, which, by the way, is already required under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, at least when it comes to so-called U.S. Persons. The Freedom Act also limits the number of “hops” that can be queried to two instead of three. Both of these reforms were also proposed by President Obama earlier this year.

Well, I suppose this USA Freedom Act is good news — until perhaps a few years from now when Glenn Greenwald or similar goes off on a 4,000 word rant about how NSA has direct access the telecom metadata servers (with “individual warrants” buried in paragraph 32).

The question for which I can’t get an adequate answer is this: why does it matter where the metadata is stored? Whether it’s at Verizon or Fort Meade, it’s just sitting there on a fleet of hard disks. Isn’t it really about access to the data? It appears as if NSA will basically have the same access it had before, but from a different database. But fine. Congress is doing something about where metadata is kept, as if it matters.

The other bit of Snowden-related news comes to us from Russia where Vladimir Putin has authorized a new law mandating that all internet websites and bloggers register their sites with the government, while also forcing site owners to retain everything they publish for six months. So Putin is basically seizing control of Russian writers and bloggers.

The New York Times reported:

Widely known as the “bloggers law,” the new Russian measure specifies that any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily will be considered a media outlet akin to a newspaper and be responsible for the accuracy of the information published.

And who inspired Putin to plan for a law like this? Edward Snowden, evidently… READ MORE

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