Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act 338 to 88, which would end the National Security Agency’s dragnet collection of private phone records.
The bill calls for telecommunication companies to maintain customer records to which the NSA could gain access only after obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Wired reports, “It also requires the agency to use specific search terms to narrow its access to only relevant records.”
The situation in the Senate is much messier where the pressure is mounting as the Patriot Act expires as of June 1.
On Monday, I wrote about Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who threatened to filibuster if the Senate tries to pass the Patriot Act without crippling section 215, which authorizes the government’s snooping enterprise.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) both favor re-authorizing the Patriot Act without any changes. Senators Lee, Cruz and Leahy support the modified USA Freedom Act. It’s anybody’s game but the rhetoric is getting heated.
Senator Rich Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a case of the vapors when speaking about the House’s passage of the USA Freedom Act. Roll Call writes that Burr said passing the USA Freedom Act “is no better than letting the Patriot Act provisions expire at the end of the month.”
And here comes some serious hubris:
“I think it’s clear to say that the program as designed is effective, and members are reluctant to change things that are effective just because of public opinion,” Burr said. “We’ve got a program that has never had one breach of personal privacy, and there’s really no compelling reason to change the structure of the program other than that the public is uncomfortable with it.”
Yes, the public…the public who votes you into office and pays your salary, the public you represent.
And Sen. Bob Corker (R-Who Cares He Needs to be Voted Out of Office), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but not on the Senate Intel Committee, thinks the NSA needs MORE data collection.
“What they should be concerned about is the lack of focus on the program, the lack of, it’s not prolific in any way and I am incredibly disappointed that we’ve allowed a program that is something that is supposed to be so important to our national security to be so ineptly carried out,” Corker said. “The amount of data collected is so minimal that you’d almost think you wouldn’t have a program like it.”
Keep your eye on the Senate today, if some of them get their way they’ll be keeping an eye on you.