The vote on Patriot Act reform ground to a halt when Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked the final vote with a filibuster.
From The Hill.
Sen. Rand Paul burst back into Washington on Sunday evening making clear that he is not relenting in his battle to hobble the Patriot Act.
“Are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? Are we going to so blindly go along and take it?” the Kentucky Republican and presidential candidate said from the Senate floor, raising his voice to reach the approximately two dozen supporters wearing “Stand with Rand” t-shirts in the chamber gallery.
“I’m not going to take it anymore,” he added. “I don’t think the American people are going to take it anymore.”
Paul spoke minutes after an altercation with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a frequent sparring partner over the years who accused the Kentucky Republican of not understanding Senate rules.
The Senate is holding a rare Sunday session on National Security Agency legislation in large part because of Paul, who more than a week ago objected to a short-term extension of the Patriot Act.
Paul also appears intent on unilaterally forcing the three provisions of the Patriot Act to expire at midnight, by preventing the Senate from voting on reform legislation until later in the week.
Backers of legislation to renew the Patriot Act provisions but end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — known as the USA Freedom Act — appeared confident heading into Sunday that they had the 60 votes necessary to proceed.
But Paul can still the stop the bill dead in its tracks — at least temporarily.
The Senate needs unanimous consent of the chamber to begin voting on a second procedural step on Sunday evening, without waiting until 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
Paul’s opposition is likely to mean they don’t get it, forcing the Senate over the midnight deadline and killing the three legal measures.
Paul appears primed to chip away at the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), which he has described as illegal and unconstitutional.
“This is a debate over the Bill of Rights,” he said. “This is a debate over the Fourth Amendment. This is a debate over your right to be left alone.”
There are pros and cons with any government surveillance program.
……The biggest and most controversial is the government’s sweeping powers under Section 215 that allow the NSA to collect telephone metadata on millions of Americans and store that data for five years. That is, for the time being, gone.
Law enforcement officials also won’t be allowed to get a roving wiretap to track terror suspects who frequently change communications devices, like phones. Instead, they will need to get individual warrants for each new device.
And third, the government loses a legal provision allowing it to use national security tools against “lone wolf” terror suspects if officials can’t find a connection to a foreign terror group such as ISIS, for example. But that provision has never been used, the Justice Department confirmed.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would make big changes to the first, but leave the latter two provisions intact.
That bill would have the telephone companies hold Americans’ telephone metadata and require the government to get a specific warrant to seize any telephone metadata — and not on millions of people, but instead on specific individuals.
So those tools are now completely gone?
Not exactly. FBI and NSA officials are allowed to continue using Section 215 and the roving wiretap provision in investigations they began before the June 1 expiration date.
Any new investigations will have to go without the roving wiretaps and the ability to petition the secret FISA court for warrants to seize business records, like telephone metadata, in terrorism cases. That court was established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to provide warrants in national security cases.
George W. Bush enacted the Patriot Act to beef up national security and specifically target muslim terrorist threats in the United States.
Under the Obama regime, it’s grown by leaps and bounds. The biggest problem is the widespread indiscriminate collection of metadata; the scope of intelligence gathering has reached out-of-control proportions. It’s being used to monitor, intimidate, and suppress the Constitutional rights of innocent American citizens.
If any of the national security agencies in this country have bona fide intelligence on terrorist threats in this country, and believe me there are plenty, then by all means, I want them to use every resource they have to get so far up their ass, they’ll feel like they’re getting a colonoscopy.
There needs to be strict, common sense oversight based on verified indications and warnings. The problem is, any power created for clandestine use can be abused.
The line between obtaining intelligence data to protect national security, and the protection of civil liberties has been breached by a government run amok. The founders of this country placed a Constitutional leash on the neck of government to ensure its limitations. It’s time for We the People to give it a good yank.