On Patriot Act Renewal and USA Freedom Act

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On Patriot Act Renewal and USA Freedom Act

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Even in the security-über alles climate that followed 9/11, the Patriot Act was recognized as an extreme and radical expansion of government surveillance powers. That’s why “sunset provisions” were attached to several of its key provisions: meaning they would expire automatically unless Congress renewed them every five years. But in 2005 and then again in 2010, the Bush and Obama administrations demanded their renewal, and Congress overwhelmingly complied with only token opposition from civil libertarians.

That has all changed in the post-Snowden era. The most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to “sunset” on June 1, and there is almost no chance for a straight-up, reform-free authorization. The Obama White House has endorsed the so-called “reform” bill called the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House by an overwhelming majority. Yet the bill fell three votes short in the Senate last week, rendering it very unclear what will happen as the deadline rapidly approaches.

Unlike many privacy and civil liberties groups, the ACLU has refrained from endorsing the USA Freedom Act and instead is advocating for allowing the Patriot Act provisions to sunset — i.e., to die a long overdue death rather than being “reformed.” Meanwhile, almost all of the 86 “no” votes in the House were based on the argument that the USA Freedom Act either does not go far enough in limiting the NSA or that it actually makes things worse.

I spoke yesterday with the ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director, Jameel Jaffer, about what is likely going to happen as the June 1 deadline approaches, whether the USA Freedom Act is a net positive for privacy supporters, and what all of this reform means for Edward Snowden’s status. The discussion is roughly 20 minutes and can be heard on the player below; a transcript is also provided.

Listen:

Read the full interview at The Intercept.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian US and Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the PowerfulGreat American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

Jameel Jaffer

Jameel Jaffer, director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, is the author, with Amrit Singh, of "Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond."

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