Given the torrid and turbulent nature of the world today, government distrust is natural. There is absolutely nothing strange about being skeptical of the decisions that our country’s higher-ups make on our behalf. Eventually, however, we must trust our democratic system and trust that the women and men that have been put in positions of power are acting for the betterment of society. The ongoing USA Freedom Act, a reform bill aimed to limit the domestic surveillance capabilities of the National Security Agency, may not be perfect, but that is no reason to reject it. Government surveillance is an understandably controversial topic. Drawing the line between protecting national security and breaching American privacy is not easy. When a bill comes along that can both regulate the monitoring processes while still ensuring nationwide protection, we cannot afford to ignore it.
Sponsored by United States Sen. Patrick Leahy, the USA Freedom Act is a major step forward. The bill would only allow telephone providers to store caller information, as opposed to government agencies. Said agencies would only have access to American phone records after receiving a court order, and whatever information they did collect would need to be disclosed on a non-daily basis.
More importantly, however, the bill would implement a series of preventative measures to ensure proper surveillance techniques between both the NSA and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It would instate a panel of civil liberties advocates tasked with monitoring and overseeing surveillance-related tasks in the name of the American public.
The bill is not without its flaws, however. Several government-monitoring restrictions were too ambiguous for critics of the proposition, who see the bill as a very convenient way to pretend that reform has been made without actually making any changes. Many fear that the USA Freedom Act––like a sizable amount of the current surveillance regulations––will open itself up to abuse over time.
Although the proposal is not perfect, it presents a better option than vetoing the bill. As it stands now, Section 215 of the Patriot Act––the section responsible for the collection of phone records, credit card reports and business information––is set to expire in June of next year.
Because of its controversial and potentially intrusive nature, the likelihood of said section being renewed for several more years is minimal at best, leaving our country in a dangerous position with no method of phone surveillance unless another proposition would take its place.
As we sit here in October, the chances of Congress drafting, examining and approving a completely new bill by June are slim to none, thus leaving us with only two courses of action.
The USA Freedom Act certainly has its shortcomings, but it is important to weigh the options, consider the effects of not passing this measure and realize that in a sea of unsure government options, this is truly the best choice we have.
Constantly striving for perfection in an otherwise imperfect world can only lead to disappointment. We put our leaders in charge for a reason and we entrust them with our safety for a reason. Sooner or later, we are going to have to sit back and have faith that they can do their jobs and do them right.