There was some very exciting news out of Washington, D.C. this weekend, at least for those of us who are pro-privacy. The National Security Agency has officially been forced to shut down its likely unconstitutional phone spying operation after the U.S. Senate allowed a key provision of the Patriot Act to expire. Instead, the agency will soon be required to operate under the rules of the new USA Freedom Act, which requires federal agents request to access specific phone records on a case-by-case basis, rather than vacuuming up all communications data as the agency had been doing.
Now, while the Obama Administration officially supports the reform-laden USA Freedom Act and will sign it into law, President Obama has been far from consistent on the issue. In fact, throughout this whole debate, it’s been hard to tell his stand on Patriot Act spying apart from that of his predecessor, President George W. Bush. To illustrate the point, the folks over at The Guardian have devised a Patriot Act Quiz. First, the paper gives you a statement supportive of the Patriot Act. You then have to guess whether the statement was made by an Obama administration official or a Bush administration official.
We’ve all passed around the quiz here at Techlicious, and it’s surprisingly tough. Here are a few sample items from The Guardian's quiz to get you started. Can you guess which administration these quotes are from? (We’ll tell you the answers at the end.)
- “We must be vigilant in the face of terrorist threats, it would be irresponsible to let these authorities lapse, even for a few days … If I lose these tools, it’s a huge, huge problem. We use [this law] fewer than 200 times per year, but when we use it, it matters tremendously.”
- “These senators need to explain why they thought the Patriot Act was a vital tool after the September 11 attacks but now feel it’s no longer necessary … It is inexcusable for the United States Senate to let the Patriot Act expire … we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.”
- “Allowing this law to lapse would open gaps in our intelligence and increase the danger to our country. Our intelligence professionals need these tools to keep our people safe, and they need Congress to ensure that these tools are not taken away.”
- “We run the risk … of essentially being less safe. I think that we lose important tools. I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past. I am very concerned that the American people will be unprotected if this law expires.”
So, have you made your choices? Don’t let the fact that all the quotes are talking about the Patriot Act expiring fool you. The first quote is from Obama’s FBI director Jim Comey, made just last week. George W. Bush himself made the second quote in December 2005 and the third quote in December 2007. The fourth quote is from Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the current debate last week.
The full test is nine questions long. When you take it, not only will you be able to see the right answers, but you can also see how you scored against the rest of those taking the quiz. I got 7 out of 9, which (I’m told) is better than 93% of others. How well did you do? Take the quiz at The Guardian and let us know in the comments below!
[Woman using smartphone via Shutterstock]