The Patriot Act was signed into law by George W. Bush roughly one month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The country was in a state of mourning and panic, and the desire to crack down on terrorism was at an all-time high. The week he signed the bill into law, Bush’s approval rating was at 88 percent.
Thirteen years later, the Patriot Act has had more than enough time to drastically affect both U.S. citizens and the global War on Terror. It's no secret that personal freedom has been exchanged for the perception of safety. Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the U.S. government has and uses its capability to essentially spy on any citizens’ communications at any time.
Despite knowing the extent to which personal freedom and privacy has been sacrificed over the past decade and a half, the majority of Americans have done little to encourage true policy change. A 2014 Huffington Post poll found that 66 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Independents and 48 percent of Democrats claimed the NSA’s surveillance program and data collection practice “goes too far.” Yet basically nothing has been done to truly change the NSA. For the most part, American citizens have confirmed what Edward Snowden cited as his biggest fear in risking his life for the leaks — apathy in response to injustice.
A bipartisan pair of Congressmen, however, recently introduced a bill that would actually do something about government surveillance. According to The Hill, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act in the House on Tuesday. The bill aims to completely repeal both the Patriot Act and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. It would be a more complete overhaul of the NSA than anything that’s been proposed before. “This isn’t just tinkering around the edges,” Pocan said. “This is a meaningful overhaul of the system, getting rid of essentially all parameters of the Patriot Act.”
The bill is unlikely to progress very far, and it almost certainly would be vetoed by President Obama. It does, however, raise some interesting points about surveillance reform at an important time for the issues to be discussed in Congress. Portions of the Patriot Act are set to expire on June 1 of this year, and Congress will be working to reform the law. If they aren’t able to gain enough support to completely repeal the Patriot Act, hopefully Pocan and Massie will at least introduce some ideas to be implemented in the law’s reformation.