The Patriot Act is perhaps the most authoritarian legislation to come out of the halls of Congress. It seemed the only way to justify such an extreme law was to make the case that it was merely a temporary measure to deal with extreme circumstances. For that reason, the law contains a sunset clause which would cause the law to eventually expire if it isn't reauthorized by ongress. Unfortunately, the sunset came and went multiple times, and Congress chose to reauthorize it again and again. Fortunately the act was only extended until June 1st of this year. Once again, the Patriot Act is about to expire, and once again there is a chance for Congress to deal with this horrible abomination simply by doing nothing and letting it expire.
Yesterday, protesters organized across the country to let their representatives know they want the Patriot Act to expire. The protests were organized at relatively short notice over the course of 2 days. Twitter, Facebook and other social media were the primary method use to spread the word. During his AMA on Reddit, Edward Snowden encouraged readers to attend the protests. The protests had the support of numerous advocacy groups including Color of Change, CREDO, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action Fund, MoveOn, Popular Resistance, and Restore the Fourth. The protests took place at dozens cities across the country including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and DC.
Despite these organized protests across the country to let the patriot act expire, there has been very little media coverage of the event so far. A fact which was noted by the Fight for the Future twitter account.
As the date of the sunset approaches the tension surrounding this issue are going rise further. It's still unclear whether Congress will reauthorize the bill or not. There is a push in Congress for a reform bill called the USA Freedom Act, which would somewhat rein in the NSA's surveillance. A key provision of that bill would be the end bulk collection of phone records, and require the NSA to attain a warrant to obtain a specific record from telecommunications companies. While that bill has been seen by some as a step in the right direction, others don't think it goes far enough in reining in the NSA. Many would rather see the Patriot Act expire and replaced with nothing. Congress is still sharply divided on this issue, but with the sunset date rapidly approaching, deadlock in Congress may be exactly what is needed to put a stop to the NSA's abuses.
Do you think Congress will allow the Patriot act to expire? Do you think the USA Freedom Act will be passed to replace it? Leave your comments below.