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USA Patriot Act’s Section 215 Set to Expire

GUEST: Marcy Wheeler, journalist specializing in national security issues, the “war on terror,” and civil liberties. She has a column on ExposeFacts.org called Right to Know.

A section of the USA PATRIOT Act expires on Sunday, and lawmakers still haven’t decided what, if anything to do about it. Section 215, according to The Hill, “has been used by law enforcement almost 200 times per year to collect bank and business records from suspected terrorists and spies.”

But privacy advocates have long denounced the invasive nature of the law into the lives of innocent and ordinary Americans. The USA Freedom Act was intended to address some of the concerns but activists celebrated when the Senate failed to pass a procedural vote on it. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a rare Sunday vote on the measure to try to pass it once more. The House already passed the bill.

The Senate will also consider a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has been a strong proponent of the government’s right to spy on Americans. Feinstein’s bill criminalizes whistleblowers and is being likened to the Espionage Act. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration, panicking at the idea that it might lose some legal justification for mass surveillance, accused lawmakers of playing “National Security Russian Roulette” with the PATRIOT Act.

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