Three PATRIOT Act Provisions Likely To Sunset, Briefly, But USA Freedom Will Pass Shortly
from the what-happens-next-is-what-matters dept
On Friday, we posted a story looking at the divergent views of two of my favorite privacy experts: Jennifer Granick favoring just letting the three PATRIOT Act clauses to sunset… and Julian Sanchez arguing that just letting those provisions sunset would unfortunately leave aside many of the important reforms in the USA Freedom Act. But, as we noted, both of them seemed to agree that either such result, without further reforms, wouldn’t be enough.
Well, now it appears that both things will happen. After some debate, a late vote this evening, the Senate voted 77 to 17 to move forward on the USA Freedom Act — but a vote will not occur until Monday at the earliest. That means, in a few hours, those three provisions of the PATRIOT Act will expire (and, no, this does not mean — as some have falsely stated that the PATRIOT Act itself is dead). And then, a few days later, the USA Freedom Act will be passed (even Rand Paul admitted this is what’s going to happen, even as he sought to block USA Freedom). Paul and some others are going to try to add some important amendments to the bill, but they’re unlikely to pass.
In other words, both of the arguments that Granick and Sanchez made seem to have happened. Section 215 will “sunset” briefly — hence a symbolic win. And USA Freedom Act, which has some useful reforms, will pass. And… then we’ll still have a long way to go to get even more important surveillance reform. The events of this evening are an important step forward. Until just recently, the very idea that we might limit the Section 215 program for real seemed unlikely. And yet, now that’s happening — with both a brief sunset and the reforms in the USA Freedom Act.
But it’s not enough. There is still plenty of excessive surveillance happening — under other provisions, including Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and Executive Order 12333. Those need to be dealt with if we’re to have real surveillance reform. The end result is that this is a an important victory for surveillance reform — which never would have happened without Ed Snowden’s actions — but it’s just a step. And a lot more is needed. And it’s needed now.