At midnight Section 215 of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act expired. For those of you unfamiliar Section 215 was the part that authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect information pertaining to phone calls, surveil people just because they switched out cell phone periodically, and spy on anybody who is labeled a “lone wolf” (which is vague enough to basically mean anybody). Many are cheering this momentous accomplishment. I’d let them celebrate in blissful ignorance but I’m kind of a prick. While Section 215 did expire that changes absolutely nothing:
Anti-surveillance groups have been split over the possible sunset of the Patriot Act powers. The American Civil Liberties Union had favored letting the Patriot Act expire, while groups like Access saw a compromise bill like the USA Freedom Act as the best chance for lasting reform. It’s unclear how the NSA and other groups will respond to the sunset of Section 215, but some have speculated that the result will be an increased reliance on national security letters and investigation-specific surveillance powers, continuing the same basic surveillance under different legal powers. Significant collection also occurs under non-legislative powers like Executive Order 12333, which remains unaffected.
There are always redundancies for state power. Later this week the Senate is still scheduled to codify the NSA’s phone surveillance program that wasn’t that clearly defined in the PATRIOT Act so this “expiration” will likely last all of a few days.
I do have some good news though. Those of us in CryptoPartyMN will be hosting a full blown CryptoParty at B-Sides MPS on June 13th and 14th. B-Sides MSP is a free event. At the CryptoParty we will be teaching you how to use tools to encrypt and anonymize your communications and data. By utilizing these tools you can defend your privacy against the state’s surveillance and not have to concern yourself with what particular provision will be used to justify spying on you. Unlike political activism, cryptography works and it requires less of your time to boot!