Guess what’s back? The Patriot Act! Congress has reined in major parts of the law. There are opinions.
The Patriot Act was signed by Dubya weeks after 9/11. It gave the US gov. new, sweeping surveillance powers, and had broad support from Congress at first. But after everyone stopped saying ‘Freedom Fries,’ there were lots of questions about whether the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law went too far.
When the law was signed, privacy advocates spit out their Freedom Press coffee, saying US citizens were sacrificing too much freedom in the name of security. The debate was renewed in 2013 when Edward Snowden spilled a LOT of government secrets. Everyone found out what the NSA was, and that it’s been collecting the phone records of US citizens in bulk. And that it says this is all OK under the Patriot Act.
This is the first time the Patriot Act has been up for renewal since the Snowden revelations, and many in Congress decided it was time for a change. After a lot of procrastinating, lawmakers agreed to a new plan called the USA Freedom Act. It shifts the bulk collection of phone data from the NSA to telecom companies. Supporters say it reins in the NSA, but critics point out that the Freedom Act expands the agency’s powers -- it would give the NSA access to data on new things like video chats and more smartphone activity. In case you needed another reason to keep everything PG.
This is the first time US spying powers have been rolled back since 9/11. Time will tell if the new law does a better job of walking the line between privacy and keeping the country safe.