The expiration of the Patriot Act and adoption of the USA Freedom Act: What does it mean?

June 12, 2015

The U.S. government temporarily had fewer avenues to investigate terrorism after the Senate let provisions of the Patriot Act expire at the beginning of June. Some saw the expirations as a national security risk, while others, who champion privacy, saw the expirations as a victory. Three provisions of the law expired, including the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, which let the NSA collect telephone metadata on people and store it for five years. Law enforcement also can’t get roving wiretaps to track terror suspects who change phones, and must now get warrants for each device they want to wiretap. The third provision that has expired is one that allowed so-called “lone wolf” terror suspects to be tracked if they weren’t part of a terror group such as the Islamic State group. But the expirations didn’t last long: The Senate this week met and passed the USA Freedom Act, which restored some surveillance measures. Shima Baradaran, an associate professor of law, can offer legal commentary about the laws and what they mean.
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