The PJ Tatler

Rand Threatens Filibuster on Patriot Act Surveillance Reauthorization

On Monday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) threatened to filibuster any attempt to reauthorize the sections of the Patriot Act that permit dragnet data collection operations.

“I’m going to lead the charge in the next couple of weeks as the Patriot Act comes forward,” Paul told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We will be filibustering. We will be trying to stop it. We are not going to let them run over us.”

Last week, the Patriot Act suffered a setback when a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s massive surveillance operation “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.”

Senator Paul will not be fighting against government snooping alone. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) also said he will filibuster a straight authorization of the bill.

“If they come back with that effort to basically extend this for a short term without major reforms like ending the collection of phone records, I do intend to filibuster,” Wyden told MSNBC on Sunday.

The House is expected to vote on the USA Freedom Act, a watered-down version of the Patriot Act, on Wednesday and it is expected to pass.

The Senate, on the other hand, is at odds over the issue and there are only ten legislative days left until the bill will sunset on June 1. There is disagreement about whether to re-authorize the entire Patriot Act or parts of the Patriot Act, whether to pass the USA Freedom Act instead or whether to do nothing at all.

Paul’s fellow senator from Kentucky and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supports the Patriot Act re-authorization entirely as does Senator Paul’s presidential challenger, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Some senators support the USA Freedom Act alternative — Sens. Lee, Cruz, and Leahy are among that group. Last year USA Freedom was voted down in the Senate — Paul voted against it, but it was re-introduced this year. Yesterday a major privacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), pulled its support of the USA Freedom Act.

“Pending those improvements, EFF is withdrawing our support of the bill,” the group said in a blog post. “We’re urging Congress to roll the draft back to the stronger and meaningful reforms included in the 2013 version of USA Freedom and affirmatively embrace the Second Circuit’s opinion on the limits of Section 215.”

The decision to yank support was based on the Second Circuit’s decision last week.

“Members like Senators Leahy and Mike Lee and Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Robert Goodlatte, and John Conyers should be applauded for working incredibly hard to get the USA Freedom Act through Congress,” EFF said in its blog post. “Yet as a result of the Second Circuit decision, the USA Freedom Act’s modest changes appear even smaller compared to the now judicially recognized problems with the mass collection of Americans’ records.”

The government cannot and should not be trusted with the communications records of American citizens “just in case.” It is gross violation of privacy and there is a perfectly good system in place for law enforcement to obtain the records they need via the court system with a warrant.

Instead, we are asked to trust the government when snooping enthusiasts claim we need the surveillance capacity to stop terror attacks but we are denied specific information that supports the necessity of collecting communication records. The director of National Intelligence LIED to the public and to Congress about collecting information in the first place, so why trust them at all with your personal communications records? Government agencies don’t have a great track record where abuse of power is concerned.

I am wishing Senator Paul success in his efforts.