Patriot Act, Mass Phone Metadata Collection Seem Destined to Expire

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-05-26 Print this article Print
Patriot Act Sunset

Other observers echoed Dawson's feelings. "I think the focus must be on what can pass," said David DeLuc, senior director of public policy at the Software and Information Industry Association. "The chance of another comprehensive reform package passing five days from now is unlikely," he said. "I think the Freedom Act will end up prevailing."

But it's worth noting that an eventual passage of the Freedom Act is not a sure thing. For one thing, some senators are against it because they don't think it's strong enough. In addition, "There is a risk of fear building on weaker senators who might be willing to do a short-term authorization," said Bijan Madhani, public policy and regulatory counsel of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

But a short-term extension isn't likely either. Majority Leader McConnell tried several such extensions as a last ditch effort, some lasting only a few days, but they all failed.

So what will ultimately happen? Bulk collection of phone metadata will almost certainly end. Even if the Senate passes an extension to the Patriot Act, the House would have to approve it, and that does not appear even slightly likely, considering the federal court opinions. Then President Obama, also considering the actions of the federal courts, would have to sign it. That seems unlikely too.

Instead, the Senate will almost certainly pass the Freedom Act. McConnell has already said he expects a few more senators to support the bill when it comes to a vote on May 31. Now that it's apparent that the original Patriot Act has no chance of passage, there's little else the senators can do if they want some sort of legislation in place.

But not everyone is in favor of even the more limited Freedom Act. "Sunsetting the Patriot Act is the biggest win for ending mass surveillance programs," Internet activist group Fight for the Future said in a prepared statement. "These bills were an attempt to disregard the abuses revealed by [Edward] Snowden and cement mass surveillance into law in defiance of the Constitution, the courts, and public sentiment," the group's CTO Jeff Lyon said.

But most other observers think the Freedom Act is what will pass. "We think the Freedom Act is a well-crafted bipartisan bicameral compromise." DeLuc said. "It seems pretty clear that this bill is a way forward. This isn't something that's far from passing." DeLuc said that he thinks the other three votes required to pass the Freedom Act will be found once the senators have a chance to consider what they can achieve with their votes.



Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel