The 2001 Patriot Act is up for renewal, and 39 privacy and civil rights groups are asking Congress to make changes to it (via Washington Examiner).
Patriot Act Renewal
Section 215 of the Patriot Act lets the FBI ask for a court order to obtain any tangible things related to a terrorism investigation. The NSA also used it as the basis for its mass surveillance of telephone records.
Now it’s one of the provisions due to expire in December without action from Congress. Although the NSA allegedly ended its telephone metadata collection program, privacy advocates are worried that it could come back using Section 215 once again.
Congress should formally remove the NSA’s ability to collect Americans’ telephone records on an ongoing basis, including the ability to collect records of individuals who are not under suspicion. We want to ensure that bulk or large-scale collection truly ends.Andrew Crocker, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
On March 28, Congress introduced a bipartisan bill called the Ending Mass Collection of Americans’ Phone Records Act. This would permanently end the NSA’s bulk collection.
If it expires, surveillance programs would “revert to a much more limited, pre-Patriot Act state” which gives incentive to intelligence agencies to lobby to keep the programs going as they are today.