What all of us are hearing this morning is that parts of the Patriot Act have lapsed. Senator Rand Paul used Senate rules to limit debate on extending the existing Patriot Act
. This was why the Senate was brought back on a rare weekend session. As of this morning everyone is talking about how we are either in hair-on-fire danger, or we have regained our privacy. The devil, as always, is in the details as to who is correct and who isn't.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell wanted the bill's surveillance provisions to continue. He failed to do so due to Presidential hopeful Rand Paul, his fellow senator from Kentucky
McConnell worked hard to build opposition to the House bill, which he has criticized as a hurdle to intelligence gathering. But he lost supporters as senators coalesced around the House bill, 77 to 17, in a procedural vote to advance the bill on Sunday. The leader had wanted to simply extend the provisions of the Patriot Act, but Paul – eight days ago and on Sunday – blocked even short-term extensions.
Republicans blamed Paul rather than the leader for the expiration.
“I’m sure we’re not going to let the whole program lapse, but because Senator Paul is taking advantage of the rules of the Senate, [we] will delay and there will be an interim period where the nation is less secure,” Sen. John McCain ® of Arizona, said on Sunday.
Democrats see things differently. Minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada faulted McConnell, blaming him for a “manufactured crisis” by waiting to bring up the Patriot Act provisions until just before the Senate’s Memorial Day recess – a week before their expiration.
So what does this mean? Rand Paul helped to ensure the house version of this Act, the USA Freedom Act
Here is another perspective
The expired provisions, subject to a “sunset” clause from the beginning of June onwards, are likely to be replaced later this week with new legislation – the USA Freedom Act – that permanently bans the NSA from collecting telephone records in bulk and introduces new transparency rules for other surveillance activities. The USA Freedom Act, once passed, will be the first rollback of NSA surveillance since the seminal 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
But until then, in addition to the expiration of the NSA’s phone records collection, the FBI is prevented from using powers granted under the Patriot Act, including the pursuit of so-called “business records” relating to internet use, hotel and rental car records and credit card statements.
Both developments represent a remarkable capitulation for the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who had initially sought to simply extend the Patriot Act provisions, despite overwhelming support in the House of Representatives for the USA Freedom Act.
McConnell and his colleagues who opposed reform were thwarted in their efforts by a growing backlash by Senate Republicans and, in particular, his Kentucky colleague, Senator Rand Paul.
Although the lapse in the programs may be brief, intelligence officials warned that it could jeopardize Americans' safety and amount to a win for extremists. But civil liberties groups applauded as Paul, who is running for president, forced the expiration of the once-secret program made public by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which critics say is an unconstitutional intrusion into Americans' privacy.
The Senate voted 77-17 to move ahead on the House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act, which only last weekend fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. For McConnell, it was a remarkable retreat after objecting ferociously that the House bill would make the bulk phone collections program dangerously unwieldy by requiring the government to search records maintained by phone companies.
"It's not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it's now the only realistic way forward," McConnell said.
The White House backs the House bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement: "The Senate took an important — if late — step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly."
A little about the USA Freedom Act
The USA Freedom Act is a bill originally introduced in both houses of the U.S. Congress on October 29, 2013. The title of the act is a ten-letter backronym (USA FREEDOM) that stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act."
The bill was re-introduced in the 114th Congress, receiving support for acting as "a balanced approach" while being questioned for amendments and extending the Patriot Act through the end of 2019. Supporters of the bill say the most the House Intelligence Committee and House leadership would allow is ending bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act until Section 702 of FISA comes up for review at the end of 2017. Critics assert that mass surveillance of the content of Americans' communication will continue under Section 702 of FISA and Executive Order 12333 due to the "unstoppable surveillance-industrial complex" despite the fact that a bipartisan majority of the House had previously voted to close backdoor mass surveillance.
Senator Bernie Sanders "May well vote for the Act"
saying this alternative to the Patriot act is the best of a bad situation. Another Presidential Candidate, Martin O'Malley chimes in on this as well
“We are right now, and I know it’s hard to believe when you see some cable news stations, when you see Congress threatening to adjourn before fixing the PATRIOT Act, the fact of the matter is we are on the threshold of a new era of American progress,” said O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, in part of a longer answer about how he would break the gridlock in Washington since 2011. (snip)
When it comes to Paul’s push in Washington, however, O’Malley stands in the mainstream. In a brief Q&A with reporters after the house party, he told BuzzFeed News Congress needs to pass the USA Freedom Act, which has been pitched by supporters as a package to reform the PATRIOT Act. USA Freedom is supported by the White House and a bipartisan coalition in Congress and viewed with skepticism by libertarians and progressives who say it doesn't do enough to shut down domestic spying programs they say are in conflict with the Constitution. O’Malley said he supported the package but proposed a couple of additional measures he said would go farther, such as a public advocate in FISA courts, the secret judiciary that rules on government surveillance requests.
The "Freedom Act" is a replacement for the Patriot Act. Yesterday was a vote toward letting the Patriot Act die. So what did Rand Paul actually do that was so courageous
(insert snark here)? Not much at all. He guaranteed the that the alternative act would be passed on Tuesday.
All Rand Paul really did was play politics.