(By Deutsche Welle) What happens now that the US government’s key domestic surveillance program has expired? Privacy advocates and surveillance hawks worry about the consequences, but for different reasons. Spencer Kimball reports.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act has expired.
For the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the American government faces major limitations on its ability to sweep up and sift through the call records of all US residents in search of potential terror plots.
The US Senate held an emergency session on Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to break a week of political gridlock. There were three options on the table: Pass reforms under the USA Freedom Act, extend the Patriot Act unchanged or let Section 215 expire altogether.
Under the pressure of a midnight deadline, 77 senators supported moving the USA Freedom Act to a final vote. Some genuinely wanted to end the government’s bulk collection program. Others thought voting for the bill’s limitations would be better than letting Section 215 expire altogether.
But for one senator, the reforms didn’t go far enough. Rand Paul, the Republican libertarian presidential candidate from Kentucky, issued an objection. The procedural move delayed a final vote beyond Section 215’s expiration date.
“While the sunset of Section 215 definitely demonstrates the strength of and the desire for strong privacy reform, the fact is that this isn’t the only section of the Patriot Act that the government could use, and in fact has used, for bulk collection,” Jake Laperruque, with the Center for Democracy & Technology, told DW.