Obama: Pass NSA Reform Before the Patriot Act Expires

The President warns of the dangers of letting the Patriot Act sunset.

May 30 2015, 10:00am

Image: The U.S. Army/Flickr

Some controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, the surveillance law passed in the aftermath of 9/11, are set to expire on Sunday at midnight. That means the end of some government surveillance programs, most notably the one that allows the NSA to collect bulk telephone metadata.

Despite the House of Representatives voting overwhelmingly to pass a reform bill called the USA Freedom Act, the Senate failed to do the same due to some senators, including filibuster-happy Rand Paul, opposing any reform.

Now, President Obama is calling on the Senate to get it together and pass the USA Freedom act, lest the NSA lose "important" surveillance powers.

"We shouldn't surrender the tools that help keep us safe," Obama said on Saturday in his weekly address. "It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless. And we shouldn't allow it to happen."

Obama argued that while he supports the end of Section 215, the basis for the bulk telephone metadata surveillance program, other parts of the Patriot Act should be preserved, the ones that are "not controversial."

"We shouldn't surrender the tools that help keep us safe."

"In our fight against terrorists, we need to use every effective tool at our disposal—both to defend our security and to protect the freedoms and civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution," Obama said.

Obama seemed to echo the words of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, who said in a statement on Friday that when the Patriot Act sunsets, the "Intelligence Community will lose important capabilities."

Meanwhile, even some opponents of NSA surveillance have been critical of the Senate's inability to pass reform.

Writing on Motherboard, Cato Institute senior fellow Julian Sanchez said that The expiration of 215 would provide the illusion of triumph, given that many provisions of the Patriot Act are permanent, and not passing the USA Freedom Act will prevent transparency reform from passing.

For different reasons, Obama is asking for the same.

"Put the politics aside," Obama asked the Senate. "Put our national security first. Pass the USA Freedom Act—now."