Today is a big day for privacy in the United States: each of us can now call our mom, our best friend, or a pizza delivery service without the NSA automatically keeping a record of who we called, when, and how long the conversation lasts.
“It’s been more than a decade since that was the case,” writes Trevor Timm at the Guardian. “Now the only question is: will it last?”
After the Senate voted down an extension of the Section 215 of the Patriot Act in a rare Sunday evening session, the dreaded law authorizing the mass surveillance of Americans expired at the first stroke of midnight and, with that stroke, one of the NSA’s most controversial and invasive surveillance program exposed by Edward Snowden was reportedly shut down. But what powers the NSA will have by the end of the week – the details of which is still up in the air and changing by the hour – is anyone’s guess.
Facing no other choice, the Senate also voted on Sunday night to move forward on the USA Freedom Act, the compromise-of-a-compromise NSA reform bill that will bring portions of the Patriot Act back from the dead, but will nonetheless permanently make end the NSA’s bulk records program as we know it ... at least, it will if it remains as it’s written now.
But Senators could now add amendments to the bill in an attempt to weaken its reforms out of existence, an opportunity that, due to procedural hurdles, they would not have had if they had passed it anytime in the last week. This normally would be a great opportunity to strengthen the bill’s many shortcomings – but given Senator majority leader Mitch McConnell’s unquestioning loyalty to intelligence agencies who have repeatedly misled the public about their authority and their abuse of it, and the power he wields to force the vast majority of his party to vote along with him, anything could happen.
The NSA can't surveil Americans' every phone call – at least for now [Trevor Timm/Guardian Comment is Free]