theSKIMM’S GUIDE TO
THE PATRIOT ACT
THE STORYGuess what’s back? The Patriot Act! Congress is deciding whether to renew, change, or let major parts of it expire. There are opinions.
THIS ONE ALWAYS GAVE ME A HEADACHE. REMIND ME.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.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?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.
SO WHAT NOW?Certain parts of the Patriot Act are due to expire on June 1st, and we all get to talk about it again. They are...
Section 215...as in the most controversial part. This is how the NSA’s able to creep on everyone’s phone records. Section 215 requires businesses to hand over records of “any tangible things,” and requires them not to tell anyone about it.
Section 206…as in the US can tap any phone or computer a potential terrorist might use, no warrant necessary. Those ‘burner phones’ on “The Wire” aren’t just popular with drug dealers -- terror suspects use them too.
Section 6001...as in an amendment that lets the US track “lone wolf” terrorists.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?The Patriot Act has been routinely critiqued and debated since 2001. But this is the first time it’s been up for renewal since the Snowden revelations, and many in Congress think it’s time for a change. So they came up with a new plan called the USA Freedom Act, which would shift the bulk collection of phone data from the NSA to telecom companies. Supporters say it reins in the NSA, but critics point out that it expands the agency’s powers -- this bill would let them creep on video chats and more smartphone activity. In case you needed another reason to keep everything PG. It passed the House, but is hung up in the Senate.
theSKIMMThe Patriot Act was written to fight terrorism. Supporters say this kind of surveillance is the sacrifice needed to keep the country safe. But, since Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA’s program, many feel like the US is less “land of the free” and more “1984.” So the stakes are high on this one. BITCOIN REALITY
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