As Patriot Act Section 215 Expires, Campaign Pushes for Reform of Dragnet Government Surveillance

Posted April 29, 2015

MP3 Interview with Sophia Cope, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, conducted by Scott Harris


Several of the most controversial provisions of the post-911 USA Patriot Act that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed to the world in 2013 are set to expire this year on June 1. Foremost among them is Section 215, which the Bush administration and the National Security Agency has interpreted as permitting the U.S. government to engage in the bulk collection of American’s phone call records. Section 215 has also been the target of civil liberties advocates who charge that warrantless surveillance of innocent citizen’s communications meta data is unconstitutional.

While the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have claimed that dragnet surveillance of U.S. communications has prevented terrorist attacks in the U.S. and around the world, reform activists say that there is little or no evidence to back up that assertion. Now with just weeks to go before the Patriot Act’s Section 215 is set to expire, supporters of reform are pushing for passage of the USA Freedom Act that its sponsors say would rein in the dragnet collection of data by the NSA and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISA Court. But NSA whistleblowers support another bill, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, that would completely repeal the 2001 PATRIOT Act, that the government cites to permit dragnet phone and Internet surveillance.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke Sophia Cope, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who talks about why the civil liberties community believes it’s necessary to repeal and replace Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed USA Freedom Act reform bill.

For more information on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's campaign to repeal and/or reform Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act

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