[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Tuesday called for a rewrite of the Patriot Act [text, PDF], including elimination of the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] phone data collection program. Obama’s call follows a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website], which found [JURIST report] that the Act does not authorize the NSA to collect millions of Americans’ phone records. The president is urging Congress [Washington Times] to adopt certain changes in an attempt to end such warrantless collections before June 1, when an important part of the Patriot Act is set to expire.
Obama’s decision follows similar pleas from several US lawmakers, who in June 2013 called [JURIST report] for a review of the government’s surveillance activity in light of reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring. The focus on government surveillance policies comes largely as a result of revelations [JURIST backgrounder] by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden [JURIST news archive], who allegedly leaked classified documents, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, in 2013, exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities. Several human rights groups have taken legal action challenging the NSA. In March rights groups filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in federal court against the NSA alleging that one of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs violates privacy rights and threatens free communication. The plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Wikimedia.