WTF is going on with the zombie NSA-friendly Patriot Act? Let us help

Just as Prez Obama tells senators to sort out USA Freedom Act

President Obama has told the US Senate to get its act together over the spy-friendly Patriot Act, key provisions of which are due to expire at midnight on Sunday.

The three provisions that will lapse include Section 215, which the NSA uses as legal cover for its blanket slurping of citizens' mobile phone records, and which a US court has found illegal.

The US House of Representatives, meanwhile, has passed the USA Freedom Act, which would reauthorize the Patriot Act provisions with some changes, but an attempt in the Senate to do the same failed last week.

"I strongly urge the Senate to work through this recess and make sure that they identify a way to get this done," Obama said in a press conference on Tuesday.

"Keep in mind that the most controversial provision in there, which had to do with the gathering of telephone exchanges in a single government database – that has been reformed in the USA Freedom Act. But you have a whole range of authorities that are also embodied in the Patriot Act that are non-controversial, that everybody agrees are necessary to keep us safe and secure."

The USA Freedom Act, as it stands, would still allow law enforcement to access American's mobile phone metadata, but it won't be able to hoard it. That job will be palmed off to the phone companies, who will respond to lawful requests to access it on a case-by-case basis.

Where is this mind-job going?

When the Senate debated the legislation last week, it failed to pass by just three votes; the Senate remains sharply split down the middle over it. Presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held an 11-hour filibuster against any renewal of the Patriot Act provisions.

There are a number of options for the Senate when it reconvenes at 4pm on Sunday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a big fan of the Patriot Act, has introduced a bill that would simply reauthorize the existing provisions, but it has virtually no chance of passing.

The USA Freedom Act is the best shot at avoiding key sections of the Patriot Act lapsing, but only if it passes unaltered. A serious alteration would mean the House would have to reconfirm the legislation, which couldn’t be done before Monday.

The other alternative, one favored by many Democratic and Republican senators, is to just let the provisions lapse. Law enforcement is understandably not keen on this (although civil liberties groups have pointed out that they already have considerable legal avenues at their beck and call). Neither is Obama.

"I would urge folks to just work through whatever issues can still exist, make sure we don't have, on midnight Sunday night, this task still undone, because it's necessary to keep the American people safe and secure," he opined. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022