Earlier this month, a federal appeals court took a close look at the National Security Agency’s collection and data-mining of Americans’ phone records and concluded that the program was unlawful.
Rather than stop it, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit noted that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the NSA relies on for the program, would sunset on June 1. So the court decided to let Congress determine whether Section 215 should die, be revised, or extended without alteration.
Last Wednesday, the House passed a bipartisan reform bill that would prohibit the NSA’s nationwide bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. While the bill would stop spy agencies from engaging in some of the most egregious forms of abuse — such as collecting the information of an entire state, zip code, or service provider — it would not stop them from demanding vast amounts of information about Americans who have no connection to terrorism. Moreover, there is no requirement that the government immediately delete information that is irrelevant, or that belongs to innocent people — meaning those records could end up in intelligence databases for years. Clearly, this reform does not go far enough.