Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fix the PATRIOT Act or let it die

Editorial: Reform Patriot Act or let it expire | Chicago Sun-Times:

May 26, 2015 - "The Patriot Act has always been a bad law. Passed in a panic weeks after the 9/11 attacks, it erodes our civil liberties without adding measurably to our national security.

"Some 14 years later, cooler heads in the House, in a bipartisan effort, have approved a bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would rein in one of the Patriot Act’s most objectionable practices, the government’s dragnet of private phone records. But ... the bill fell three votes short in the Senate, where Republican leaders would rather simply extend the relevant provisions of the Patriot Act, set to expire on June 1.

"Too bad for that. The USA Freedom Act represents a bare minimum in necessary reform. We wish it went further in restoring a balance between personal freedoms and national security. But if the Senate can’t pass even this bill, so be it — let the government’s program for collecting phone records in bulk come to an end. Let Section 215 of the Patriot Act expire.

"Congress then could craft a new law, from scratch, that puts a premium on our liberties. It wouldn’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be easy.

"We’re unclear why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others defend this provision of the Patriot Act so strongly to begin with. Just three weeks ago, a federal appeals court released a blistering opinion that Section 215 does not legitimately allow for the 'sweeping surveillance' of phone records and other data in 'staggering'' volumes. And all that data collection, according to testimony and government reports, has never made the difference in thwarting a terrorist attack.... NSA overstepped its authority. The NSA relied on a radical and incorrect interpretation of the Patriot Act to launch its mass surveillance program.

"Congress will take one last shot next week at reining in the Patriot Act. If it fails to do so — if it does nothing to curb the government’s bulk collection of phone records — let the program expire."

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