Senate Moves USA Freedom Act Forward, But Patriot Act Section 215 Will Expire Before Passage

May 31, 2015 9:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — In a special Sunday session, the Senate surpassed the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the USA Freedom Act, a bill to amend the Patriot Act’s Section 215 and other surveillance authorities.

Section 215 will likely expire at midnight, as Senate rules require additional time before there can be a final vote on the USA Freedom Act. The American Civil Liberties Union does not formally support or oppose the bill but is calling for significant changes.

Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, had this reaction:

“Today’s vote, at least a temporary sunset, and the debate of the last few weeks are a reflection of strong support — across the political spectrum — for meaningful and comprehensive reform of the surveillance laws. Congress should take advantage of this sunset to pass far reaching surveillance reform, instead of the weak bill currently under consideration.”

The National Security Agency relied on Section 215 for its phone records collection program, which the government said would be halted due to the expiration.

On May 7, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the phone records program as illegal, ruling that Section 215 could not be read to authorize the bulk surveillance.

The ACLU has pointed out that there is no evidence that Section 215 has been necessary for preventing terrorist attacks, and that the sunset of Section 215 will not affect the government’s ability to conduct targeted investigations of terrorist threats. More explanation is at:

The ACLU’s letter to senators detailing recommended improvements to the USA Freedom Act is at:

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