After the Senate vote, the NSA is preparing to shut down their phone-tracking program, which they claim is vital to tracking down terrorists. The Senate debated whether to reform the program or extend it beyond May 31; however, they failed to reach an agreement. Even though a deal has not been reached, the NSA is now preparing to stop the program and stay within the boundaries of the law because shutting it down may take several days.
Other less-popular parts of the Patriot Act are also in jeopardy. One part allows the FBI to collect business records for use in terrorism investigations. Another allows the FBI to wiretap terrorism suspects without obtaining a search warrant. Lastly, the FBI can track “lone wolves,” which are individuals suspected of committing terrorist acts even though they have no known links to any terrorist groups.
Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ron Wyden head the opposition to the Patriot Act. They are concerned that future administrations would abuse these data to determine how citizens are connected to one another or attack their political enemies to further their political agendas. Sen. Paul is mainly concerned with the people’s rights. Last Friday night, he tweeted, “The Bill of Rights is worth losing sleep over.” However, some fellow senators, who view his opposition to the Patriot Act as a presidential campaign stunt, are not happy with him.
Still, some senators hope to reach an agreement before May 31 because they are afraid of the government becoming blind to terrorist activities. Some want to postpone it until another counter-terrorist measure is developed. They don’t want to endanger lives without creating a counter-terrorist measure that can protect citizens.
Is collecting phone data really a big help in counter-terrorism? Safety or privacy? The debate continues, and I remain hopeful that the Senate will reach a middle ground by May 31.
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