The Death of a Patriot…. Act

The Wicked Witch of the West is Dead

On June 1st the most atrocious parts of the patriot act expired. Allowing these provisions to expire is a stark contrast to the last time the act was extended. In 2011, Congress scrambled to ensure that the bill would not expire. Then, just minutes before the deadline, President Obama was awakened in France and ordered an automated signing into law of a four year extension of the privacy destroying Patriot Act. The close call was mostly due to the resistance of Republican Senator Rand Paul.

Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself

Flash forward to May 31st of this year and it’s a much different story. People like Mitch McConnell and Richard Burr have consistently used fear mongering to perpetuate bills like the Patriot Act and Protect America Act.

Case in point, just this week, Usaamah Rahim was shot to death after waving his knife at police. His initial plan was to attack and behead Pamela Geller; the same conservative activist who organized the Mohammed cartoon drawing contest in Dallas that drew fire from two gunmen. But he found police to be a much easier target. Despite ‘Liking’ ISIS and extremist preachers on social media, there is no connection between him and ISIS. This didn’t stop Senator Richard Burr from claiming that he could, “confidently say it emanated from ISIS.” Later, when further questioned about his claim he would not comment on whether investigators actually believed Usaamah was connected, or even inspired, by ISIS.

It’s hard to believe that a group as methodically organized as ISIS would attempt such a fool-hearted attack. ISIS is actually likely offended by claims that they were in any way connected to Usaamah Rahim and his friends’ lame plan.

Thankfully, despite these warrant-less claims and desperate pleas, Congress allowed three key provisions of the Patriot act to ‘sunset’ June 1st.

On May 31st, just before 8 o’clock at night, the National Security Agency officially shut down the bulk metadata collection program that has been growing and running rampant since 2001. The Patriot Act isn’t completely dead, however. Roving wire taps and other surveillance measures that have already been approved are grandfathered in and can continue unchanged.

It’s important to note that only parts of the patriot has expired. The frightening Section 215, being one of them. This section is the one that allowed the NSA to collect telephone metadata on millions of Americans and store it for five years. The Roving wiretaps are also gone, forcing the government to get individual warrants for each new device. The legal provision allowing the government to surveil ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, those that are inspired but not ordered by terrorist groups like ISIS, is gone as well. The government claims to never have used the latter provision.

The Fight Isn’t Over

This development is a welcomed one. Especially when you consider that several review boards found that bulk metadata collection was not essential in stopping a single terror plot. Alas, fear mongers not to be defeated, are already working on a new bill that will restore at least some of the power to the NSA.

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