This Is What Will Happen When the Patriot Act Provisions Expire Tonight

The National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)
The National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
(Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)

The Senate voted Sunday to move forward with consideration of the USA Freedom Act, a measure that would end the controversial bulk collection of phone metadata. However, Senate leaders were unable to reach a deal to avoid the expiration of key provisions of the Patriot Act before the midnight Sunday deadline. Here are some of the immediate impacts:

• The “lone wolf” provision of the law will expire. This allows U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to target surveillance at suspected terrorists who are acting alone without any direct ties to terrorist groups or rogue nations. It specifically says that it does not apply to U.S. citizens. It has never actually been used, White House officials said.

• The “roving wiretap” provision will expire. This allows federal agencies to monitor a person rather than a specific phone or electronic device. The government can keep track of suspected terrorists regardless of how many cell phones they use and throw away. Approval for the surveillance must be obtained from a federal court.

• Section 215 of the Patriot Act will expire. This section has generated the most controversy and debate because the National Security Agency has used it as the basis to collect the phone records of millions of Americans not suspected of any crime. Many members of Congress would like to see this section changed or repealed.

• Lesser-known powers under Section 215 will also end. While the mass collection of phone records by the NSA has been the focus of attention, this section of the law is also used by the FBI and CIA to collect other information. For example, the CIA uses it to track financial data, such as wire transfers, that can help expose terrorist networks. The FBI has used it to obtain companies’ Internet business records.

• All investigations of phone records under Section 215 of the law will not stop immediately. A clause in the Patriot Act allows the NSA to continue investigations it has already started. The agency collects data that shows who made and received calls, how long those calls lasted, and when they happened. The data does not include the substance of those calls.

SOURCE: USA Today – Erin Kelly

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