Tags: Edward Snowden | Homeland Security | NSA/Surveillance | War on Terrorism | Patriot Act | NSA | data

Congress May Scrap Patriot Act's Data Collection Program

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 06:14 PM

If Congress does not act before June 1 to reauthorize certain provisions of the controversial Patriot Act, which allows the government to collect massive amounts of data on Americans' use of the telephone and Internet, the law will lapse.

Roll Call notes that when the act's provisions came up for renewal in 2011, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly, 196-56, to allow the program to continue. In the Senate, 41 of 45 Republicans and 30 of 48 Democrats voted to continue the program.

But now, conservative groups such as libertarian think tank the Cato Group say conservative legislators may be rethinking their position and could be willing to scrap the contentious Section 215 of the law, which allows the government to vacuum up massive amounts of phone and Internet data and scan it for contact with terrorist groups.

Patrick Eddington, a Cato policy analyst, recently hosted congressional aides at a briefing in an attempt to urge them to get their bosses to oppose renewing Section 215, Roll Call reports.

"They're going to say, 'Pass this or people are going to die,'" Eddington, a former CIA agent, said, adding that he would not ask anyone "to support a solution to the problem we are discussing here today that would increase the risk to the lives of people here at home or our deployed troops abroad," but he said he does not think that is the case with dumping Section 215.

About 30 digital rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Human Rights Watch, Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), Sonic, and even Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower who first revealed the government's spy program, have banded together in the group Fight 215 to try to bring the Patriot Act to an end, RT.com notes.

Snowden said on the group's website, "The next 60 days are a historic opportunity to rein in the NSA, but the only one who can end the worst of its abuses is you. Call your representatives and tell them that the unconstitutional 'bulk collection' of Americans' private records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act must end."

Also on the website, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says, "We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA's dragnet collection of Americans' phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence."

Conservatives such as FreedomWorks' Wayne Brough argue that Section 215 is hurting the U.S. economy by driving U.S. businesses to store their data with European storage providers, Roll Call notes, and they say that retaining such massive amounts of data results in a large taxpayer cost.

"We’re spending a huge amount of money to store data that’s totally worthless," Eddington told Roll Call.

The groups want mass surveillance of Americans without a warrant to be banned, destruction of previously gathered information, regular audits of surveillance programs, and stopping the government from mandating that technology companies allow a "back door" through their encryption programs to allow government entry, Roll Call reports.

Trevor Timm of FPF wrote in The Guardian, "In less than 60 days, Congress — whether they like it or not — will be forced to decide if the NSA’s most notorious mass surveillance program lives or dies. Over 30 civil liberties organizations launched a nationwide call-in campaign urging them to kill it."

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If Congress does not act before June 1 to reauthorize certain provisions of the controversial Patriot Act, which allows the government to collect massive amounts of data on Americans' use of the telephone and Internet, the law will lapse.
Patriot Act, NSA, data, Edward Snowden, Congress, June 1, privacy, phone, emails, collection, deadline
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2015-14-13
Monday, 13 Apr 2015 06:14 PM
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