News·2 min read

What is the Patriot Act and how it affects you

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Aug 14, 2017

The story

Guess what’s back? The Patriot Act! Congress is deciding

whether to renew

It's been a while. Remind me.

The Patriot Act was

signed by Dubya

weeks after 9/11. It gave the US gov new, sweeping surveillance powers to help detect potential new terror threats, and had broad support from Congress at first. But after everyone stopped saying ‘Freedom Fries

What do you mean?

When the law was signed,

privacy advocates

said US citizens were sacrificing too much freedom in the name of security. Supporters said it would stop more tragedies like 9/11 from happening on American soil. The debate was renewed in 2013 when

Edward Snowden


a LOT of government secrets

So what happened?

President Obama and many in Congress decided it was time for a change. After a lot of procrastinating, lawmakers agreed to a new plan called the

USA Freedom Act

. It shifted the bulk collection of phone data from the NSA to telecom companies. Now, the NSA has to

get a court's permission

What's the latest?

Part of the law is up for renewal this year. It's a section that

allows the NSA

to spy on electronic conversations between US citizens and people outside the US without a warrant. Now, it's up to Congress to decide whether to reauthorize it. Critics of the law –

like the American Civil Liberties Union

– say it's a loophole that allows the NSA to keep spying on Americans. And supporters – like President Trump and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – say it's

an important part


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