The past two years have seen a series of revelations about the National Security Agency’s systematic mass-surveillance programs, prompting a national debate about the relevance of the Fourth Amendment in a post-Sept. 11 America.

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire in 12 days, including Section 215, which authorizes domestic surveillance by the NSA. Between now and the end of May, lawmakers must find the right path forward to preserve Americans’ right to privacy while maintaining the necessary tools to keep our nation secure from real threats. Debate in Congress has hinged primarily on whether to curtail these surveillance programs or to continue the status quo.

As if on cue, a new poll from the American Civil Liberties Union released yesterday has found broad opposition to government surveillance. By a nearly two-to-one margin (60 percent modify, 34 percent preserve) Americans believe the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized in its current form.

In other findings, the poll found that by more than four-to-one (82 percent concerned, 18 percent not concerned), voters find it concerning that the U.S. government is collecting and storing the personal information of Americans, including 31 percent who are extremely concerned and 25 percent who are very concerned.

The poll also found that the Patriot Act is unpopular across the partisan spectrum. A 58 percent majority of Republicans favor modification of mass surveillance, with only 36 percent favoring the status quo. Similarly 59 percent of Democrats support reforming the Patriot Act, with only 35 percent support preserving the current provisions. Independent voters are even less enthusiastic about mass domestic surveillance: 71 percent want the Patriot Act modified, versus 22 percent who favor keeping it as it is.

These findings are congruent with the House of Representatives, which last week overwhelmingly passed the USA FREEDOM Act by a vote of 338-88. This balanced reform would extend the PATRIOT Act with a number of measures to rein in the National Security Agency. The measure would end indiscriminate bulk surveillance, while also increasing transparency and accountability for the FISA courts, the special branch of the court system that approves and monitors surveillance.

In the Senate, things are much more unclear. Senate Republican Leadership is trying to push for a clean reauthorization, while Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have led the charge to take up the House-passed bill. With only a few days before these provisions expire and the Senate prepared to deliberate over the Memorial Day holiday, it is unclear what approach the Senate will take to resolve the future of the PATRIOT Act.

One hopes the findings of this recent poll will give clarity to the issues at stake and push the Senate to adopt a position of reform that is in line with the American people.

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