In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Congress overwhelmingly approved the Patriot Act to enable better intel sharing between government agencies and improve intel gathering. At the time, civil liberties advocates complained the new surveillance measures were far too intrusive, but the urgency to close potential loopholes which exposed the nation to terrorist threats prevailed. Notwithstanding, some pundits opined that over time, most of the civil liberties being intruded upon by the federal government would be restored.
It appears that may soon be happening with a new revision to the Patriot Act currently working its way through congress. The bill, which won strong bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee, will radically alter how the federal government gathers metadata from internet usage and phone records. The catalyst for the change is the whistle blowing efforts of Edward Snowden, who leaked the information to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ironically, Snowden is still persona non grata in the United States where he would certainly face federal charges should he return.
Under the Patriot Act revision, the government will still be able to analyze internet and phone records, but only upon receiving the approval of a federal judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Until said time, Jason Halpern believes telecom companies and internet service providers will retain the records. Currently, the FBI need only give phone & internet companies a National Security Letter to obtain troves of data.