Monday, June 1, 2015

Potential Pause on the Patriot Act

At the beginning of second semester, our class did presentations on civil liberties violations during different wars in our country's history. My group did our presentation on the War on Terror, and some of the topics we discussed were the USA Patriot Act, the NSA's involvement in our lives, and Edward Snowden. So when I saw an article about the Patriot Act's expiration, I was immediately intrigued, and a little confused.

The Patriot Act was passed after 9/11 to "justify collecting reams of telephone metadata--information about phone numbers called the times of the calls". The NSA (National Security Agency) is allowed to receive this information from phone companies, like Verizon and AT&T, if they present a search warrant. This has been a controversial act ever since Edward Snowden released information regarding how much information the government was allowed to see, and how much of it was actually useful in finding terrorist activity. Recently, a federal appeals court ruled that the telephone records program is illegal. "The same authority that has been used to collect the bulk telephone data allows national security investigators to obtain court orders for records that pertain to an individual". The debate on whether or not this bill is a violation of our civil liberties has been ongoing ever since. In order to stop the bill from continuing, there needs to be a unanimous consensus from the senate on Sunday, May 31st.

In an editorial I read about the topic, the author argues that the debate "should be allowed to continue" and be able to reach a compromise that gives Americans information on what exactly the government is able to see. When Snowden released his information in 2013, the Obama administration started reviewing intelligence techniques and said they would reform the program. This also caused lawmakers to look at the Patriot Act more closely, leading a federal appeals court to rule that the NSA's collection of phone data was unlawful.

Although I believe that the government should be able to investigate and collect information about possible terrorist threats to the United States, I think there needs to be more evidence showing us how the collection of our phone records has helped them find suspected terrorists. If the NSA is not able to present that information, I think it will be hard for them to continue their actions, especially now that this has been brought to our attention. I don't know what the verdict will be, but I predict that this will be an ongoing debate for the next couple of years. I wonder how the next president will feel about this issue.

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