A drastic curtailment of government surveillance powers is scheduled to occur if the House of Representatives allows a crucial section of the U.S. Patriot Act to expire.

Guardian national security editor Spencer Ackerman reported Friday:

On 1 June 2015, Section 215 of the Patriot Act will expire. The loss of Section 215 will deprive the NSA of the legal pretext for its bulk domestic phone records dragnet. But it will cut deeper than that: the Federal Bureau of Investigation will lose its controversial post-9/11 powers to obtain vast amounts of business records relevant to terrorism or espionage investigations. Those are investigative authorities the USA Freedom Act leaves largely untouched.

Section 215’s expiration will occur through simple legislative inertia, a characteristic of the House of Representatives in recent years.

Already, the House has voted to sharply curtail domestic dragnet surveillance, both by passing the Freedom Act in May and voting the following month to ban the NSA from warrantlessly searching through its troves of international communications for Americans’ identifying information. Legislators are warning that the next Congress, expected to be more Republican and more hostile to domestic spying, is unlikely to reauthorise Section 215.

The FBI has argued for years that its Section 215 powers, which permit the collection of “any tangible thing” relevant to investigations into terrorism or espionage with no requirement for probable cause, are essential for protecting the United States.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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