Key provisions of the USA Patriot Act expired June 1 after a late Senate vote failed to establish an extension. The provisions that expired were in Section 215 of the act and included: the "Bulk Data Collection" provision, which allowed the government to collect data, the "Lone Wolf" provision, which allowed surveillance on individuals not directly tied to terrorist groups, and the "Roving Wiretaps" provision, which allowed the government to surveil all of a suspected terrorist's communications. The Senate gathered to vote on the bill late May 31, but fierce debate pushed the vote into the early hours of the next morning. Although the Senate failed to establish an extension for the Patriot Act, they are set to vote on the USA Freedom Act which is supposed to serve as a limit on government surveillance.
Several US lawmakers have called for a review of the government's surveillance activity in light of reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring. The focus on government surveillance policies comes largely as a result of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified documents, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, in 2013, exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities. Several human rights groups have taken legal action challenging the NSA. In March rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court against the NSA alleging that one of the NSA's mass surveillance programs violates privacy rights and threatens free communication. The plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Wikimedia. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled earlier this month that the Patriot Act does not authorize the NSA to collect millions of Americans' phone records.
From Jurist, June 2. Used with permission.