Following President Obama’s virtually empty promises of reform last week, there is renewed talk of wholesale reform of NSA surveillance, and a lot of dispute over whether or not there are enough votes to pass the sort of meaningful reform people like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – VT) are proposing.
Though the American public is solidly opposed to the NSA surveillance, Congress is much more split on the matter, and while that could hamper reform laws, Sen. Mark Udall (D – CO) says the fallback solution could be to just let the laws expire.
The nominal legal justifications for NSA metadata surveillance schemes lie within the Patriot Act, and the section therein is slated to expire next year. Sen. Udall says that without real reform, the law won’t have enough support to pass again.
Much of the Patriot Act was intended to be a temporary war-time measure, but with an increasingly permanent war the default assumption was that officials would just keep re-authorizing the clauses essentially forever. The NSA scandal may end up the high-profile abuse that forces Congress to rethink that.