Americans are fed up with the unchecked mass surveillance activities of the National Security Agency.
Recent disclosures have shown that the government is regularly intercepting the calls of hundreds of millions of Americans and spying on a vast but unknown number of Americans' international calls, text messages, and emails.
The government's surveillance programs have infiltrated most of the communications technologies we have come to rely on. They are largely enabled by two problematic laws passed by Congress under a national security premise: the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). While the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) oversees the government's surveillance activities, it operates in near-total secrecy through one-sided procedures that heavily favor the government.
The good news is that Congress is getting the message that we need substantive change. For the first time in nearly 40 years, Congress is poised to rein in the powers of the U.S. intelligence community.
In May, the House passed the USA Freedom Act, a measure aimed at ending bulk collection of Americans' phone records under the Patriot Act. And in July, a much stronger version of the bill was introduced in the Senate. The Senate version would curb the most egregious abuses of the telephone metadata program and represents a compromise among the White House, civil liberties advocates and private industry.
When Congress returns from its August recess, surveillance reform will be high on the agenda. Passing the USA Freedom Act would present a clear turning point in shifting our surveillance debate toward addressing the erosion of checks and balances on government surveillance and other national security authorities.