Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Metadata Collection: Responsible Options for the Way Forward

After the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act amended Section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow U.S. intelligence to query telephone metadata and has reportedly contributed to the disruption of 54 international terrorist plots, 13 of which were to be executed inside the United States. Section 215 expires at the end of May 2015, and policymakers are now faced with a daunting question: How do they protect Americans while respecting this nation’s healthy distrust of government surveillance? Given ISIS and al-Qaeda’s renewed determination to strike the American homeland, there are three major policy options that Congress should consider.

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