On June 1st, the Patriot Act expired at long last. Most importantly, it took with it the infamous section 215 that has allowed the NSA to catch phone records in its great trawling net of unwarranted surveillance.
The end of this unconstitutional surveillance would be a welcome sight to everyone it affects, however, the introduction of the Freedom Act does make you wonder whether it will really end.
The mass media are presenting the passing of the bill, Freedom Act, as a great victory for American citizens, and the US government acting to vindicate the actions of Edward Snowden.
However, the question that I think needs to be asked is what has actually changed?
First things first, the main reason for the Freedom Act was supposed to be the reeling in of NSA’s ability to access any phone records they want, without a warrant.
However, that will continue at least until December thanks to the Freedom Act, and possibly for a full year, should proposed reforms of the act be passed.
Given that this method of intelligence gathering never foiled any terrorist plots in the 14 years it was active, it is unlikely that it will succeed in the next year.
However, that said, it would only have to capture one terrorist in that time for the NSA to re-acquire this power.
Furthermore, the NSA can still access basically anyone’s phone records; it’s just that they now have to go through the phone companies first.
I highly doubt that this extra level of bureaucracy will prevent them from finding out what they want to know.
The other thing that seems to have been completely ignored is the vast array of unchecked methods at the disposal of the NSA.
The New York Times have in fact reported that the NSA has expanded its equally unwarranted surveillance of Americans’ internet traffic.
So while now your phone records are marginally safer, your internet usage, which is more than likely greater anyway, is now more likely to monitored.
I think that Sen. Bernie Sanders put it best when he said:
“We must keep our country safe and protect ourselves from terrorists, but we can do that without undermining the constitutional and privacy rights which make us a free nation. This bill is an improvement over the USA Patriot Act but there are still too many opportunities for the government to collect information on innocent people.”
What is somewhat horrifying about the Freedom Act is that it allows the NSA to say that they have underwent reform, when really very little has actually changed. As Edward Snowden said, “My work is not finished.”
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