PATRIOT ACT SHOWDOWN: Several key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire June 1, including Section 215, which allows collection of so-called “metadata” business records, such as the timing, length and call logs of cell phone records. The Obama Administration unilaterally modified the section 215 metadata program in early 2014, to restrict somewhat the collection of telephone metadata in response to public outcry.
If Congress fails to reauthorize section 215, the Obama Administration has said it will end the collection of telephone metadata entirely.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) have introduced a bill that would extend section 215, unchanged, through 2020. They have invoked a procedural maneuver that allows their bill to bypass normal committee consideration, and go straight to the Senate floor.
The McConnell-Burr clean reauthorization bill has sparked strong opposition by libertarian-leaning groups, who have urged the Senate to follow the House lead and end section 215 telephone metadata collection. The National Security Council and FBI have stated that a lack of reauthorization of section 215 could hamper its efforts at tracking terror suspects, and it is speculated that other provisions of law could be invoked to continue surveillance of such suspects (without bulk collection of telephone metadata).
With all of the other horrendous events going on in the world, the Patriot Act reauthorization seems to have slipped off the radar of most Americans.