It seems that the US government may let a particular clause in its Patriot Act die off. In this case, all that spying the authorities are doing on the world may suddenly become illegal. Taking into consideration the fact that the members of both parties in Congress are lining up behind anti-NSA protesters, it seems real that Section 215 of the Patriot Act can be allowed to expire.
Senator James Sensenbrenner, who drafted the legislation, has also warned that the legal justification for the domestic surveillance program of the National Security Agency will be cancelled next summer if the government doesn’t restrict the way the agency uses its power. In other words, unless the White House changes the scale of the spying programs, the agency will be acting illegally.
At the moment, provisions of Section 215 allow the agency to harvest metadata about telephone calls made within the United States and track connections among US citizens which might be connected with counterterrorism investigations.
The matter is that most US citizens were shocked at the scale of the spying to which the NSA has pushed its limits. Now Senator James Sensenbrenner has written the Freedom Act, a bill meant to restrict the scope of both Section 215 and the surveillance programs, which has already attracted 130 sponsors. By the way, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy was a sponsor of a similar bill in the Senate.
In the meantime, it is known that the review panels appointed by the White House have also slammed Section 215 and the scope of the programs the National Security Agency justifies under it. For example, the review panels didn’t like the practice of collecting phone metadata in bulk, saying that it raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties, and pointing out that the practice has no viable legal foundation.
The industry experts admit that the US Justice Department has yet to build its plan in case Section 215 dies or any of the Freedom bills are passed. Perhaps, all investments made in spying technology and databases will have to be scrapped.