Coast Guard Impact of “USA FREEDOM Act of 2015”

The “USA FREEDOM Act of 2015” is intended to impose limits on the NSA’s collection of data on US citizens. But like many laws it goes beyond its apparent purpose. There is an “Easter Egg” in Title VIII, “Safety of Maritime Navigation and Nuclear Terrorism Conventions Implementation.”

Frankly, I have a hard time interpreting what this new law really means. But because it appears that it will extend enforcement authority over many ships that are not US flag, I presume this will bring the Coast Guard, as the primary Federal maritime law enforcement agency, additional authority and responsibilities.  Here is a short review. I am unfamiliar with the source, so I can’t really vouch for it, but sounds like this may be important.

If any of the readers is knowledgeable on this topic, I would appreciate your perspective.


2 thoughts on “Coast Guard Impact of “USA FREEDOM Act of 2015”

  1. It looks like this provision is an update to the domestic legislation implementing the Convention for the Supression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA). 18 USC 2280 was originally enacted in 1994 and last amedned in 1996. It appears there haven’t been any updates since then. A number of the changes appear to be amendments making the law consistent with more recent legislative changes like the Maritime Drug Enforcement Act, which I think was passed back in 2006 or 2008 or so. For example, by tying the definition of “vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” to the definition in 46 USC 70502, the law would cover vessels without nationality, vessels assimilated to vessels without nationality, vessels for which the flag state has waived jurisdiction, vessels in the customs waters of the US, vessels in a foreign nation’s territorial seas if that nation consents, and vessels in the contiguous zone that are entering, or have departed, a US port. It also updates the definition section, adding definitions of biological weapons, precursors, explosives, etc. Based on my review I dont’ see this resulting in an expansion of existing Coast Guard operations, but an expansion of situations in which someone might be charged with a violation of 18 USC 2280, along with the ability to prosecute them in a US Federal Court, if there is ever an act of terrorism on board a vessel that would fall under the new terms of the statute. In other words, it’s not new authority, but a modernization of authority. This strikes me as likely that the Coast Guard was involved in the drafting of these provisions. They probably saw it as an opportunity to get some legislative updates they’ve been wanting.

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