Nate Jackson / May 14, 2015

Congress Takes NSA Hot Potato

The NSA’s mass metadata collection efforts have come to a head. Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the program violated the Patriot Act, despite the NSA claiming Section 215 authorized it. Indeed, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), primary author of the original Patriot Act, said, “That program is illegal and based on a blatant misinterpretation of the law.” But the law is up for renewal by June 1, so Congress has to act. The House on Wednesday voted 338-88 to pass the USA Freedom Act, which specifically ends bulk data collection. That sets up a fight with the Senate, where Republicans are more eager to actually authorize the NSA’s phone metadata program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned the House bill would put undue limits on intelligence collection and said the Senate won’t vote on it. House Speaker John Boehner promised not to let the Patriot Act expire because it’s “critically important to keep Americans safe.” But the fundamental debate is how much power the government needs to do that. How much Liberty do we give up for security?

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