Recently, the United States Senate acted to end the bulk collection of Americans communications records by passing THE USA FREEDOM ACT (H.R. 2048). In a 67-32 vote the Senate agreed with civil libertarians and the American Association of Law Libraries (“AALL”) who feared that section 215 of The Patriot Act violated the privacy rights of library users and all Americans.
AALL’s Washington Blawg agrees in its post on June 2. The Blawg explained that “under the legislation, all significant constructions or interpretations of law by the FISA court must be made public. The bill will also create a panel of amicus curie to provide guidance on matters of privacy and civil liberties, communications technology, and other technical or legal matters. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law, ushering in the most significant reduction in the government’s surveillance authorities since the 2001 passage of the USA Patriot Act.”
As was noted in an earlier discussion of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, (see the Blog of May 20. 2015), in the wake of the horrific attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act to provide government authorities with the powers needed to monitor communications of all Americans, in the hope of forestalling any devastating future events. This broad and sweeping measure many felt served as a sort of “drag net” that swept in private communications and all manner of records. Section 215 had the potential effect of inhibiting the free flow of ideas, information, and communication that are the life blood of a free society. As the AALL Blawg noted, reform was clearly needed.
In our discussion of May 20 in this blog, we asked the question, are we willing to give up our right to privacy and the freedom to communicate openly and without constraints in order to feel secure? Is the tradeoff worth the loss of freedom? Speaking through their collective elected representatives, Americans responded with a resounding NO!