Published on Jun 1, 2015
” WASHINGTON D.C. — Following gridlock in the US Senate, one of the most controversial sections of the anti-terrorism law, the Patriot Act, expired on Sunday night. Section 215 of the Patriot Act required businesses to turn over “all tangible things” to federal authorities.
In practice, Section 215 was interpreted by the government to allow for the bulk collection of customer data by the NSA. It expired without renewal at 12 a.m. Monday morning.
Section 215 authorized, the bulk warrantless collection of Americans phone metadata, as well as other identifying customer data from telcos and internet firms.
Section 215 also authorized the “roving wiretap” where a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, or FISA) could warrant the tapping of any phone used by a suspect.
Section 215 also permitted the secret FISA courts to issue warrants to surveil “lone wolves,” or people with no connection to any terrorist organization or government.
The Senate had before it, compromise security legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, which the House of Representatives had already passed. One provision of the USA Freedom Act would have extended the powers granted by the Patriot Act’s Section 215 for four more years.
However, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) blocked a motion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to fast track review of the USA Freedom Act in order to bring a vote before the midnight deadline.
A revised USA Freedom Act will likely be passed by the Senate midweek, with broad bipartisan support.
The USA Freedom Act is a compromise between the government and telcos, web companies, and civil liberties advocates, who saw Section 215 as too vague. Last month, the Federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled such data warrantless data collection to be illegal.
The House version of the USA Freedom Act would ban bulk phone record collections by the NSA, but require telcos to retain customers’ data instead. The the government can still get warrants from the FISA courts. Those warrants must specify a customer’s name or phone number.
The Senate will vote on the revised USA Freedom Act this week.
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