Open thread: Funeral for the Patriot Act

posted at 3:31 pm on May 31, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

Cue the Clint Eastwood western showdown music. The Senate is getting set to go back into session on a Sunday afternoon to either save the republic from terrorists or save the republic from its own government, depending who you ask. This particular bit of beltway theater is one of the stranger ones we’re likely to witness this year, if only because it finds GOP foreign policy hawks largely lining up on the same side as President Obama. And being fearful of looking too soft on ISIS as we move into an election season, many Democrats who might previously have squawked a bit louder about domestic spying are quietly registering a few grumbles about keeping the spying agencies out of our bedrooms, but generally siding with the president as well.

On the other side there is… Rand Paul. And along with the Kentucky senator are an army of strident, Big L Libertarians who are ready to Stand With Rand, or whatever the bumper sticker of the week reads. (Oh, and Bernie Sanders too… talk about strange bedfellows.) Paul’s argument largely centers on how our forefathers would be aghast to see the sorry state of liberty today, while his opponents generally make snarky remarks about how this is part of his lagging presidential bid.

In the run-up to this evening’s Senate showdown over National Security Agency surveillance, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has vowed to end the agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records, even as President Obama is urging passage of a compromise bill that would shut down that NSA program but also preserve several other spying powers.

The Senate has only hours to act. At midnight Sunday, the surveillance authorities — all created under the USA Patriot Act — are due to lapse.

“So what’s the problem?” Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday. “A small group of senators is standing in the way. And unfortunately, some folks are trying to use this debate to score political points. But this shouldn’t and can’t be about politics. This is a matter of national security.”

John Brennan offered the CIA perspective on the subject earlier in the day and it was pretty much what you’d expect.

CIA Director John Brennan said the expiration of government-surveillance programs at midnight Sunday could make the country less safe from a terrorist attack and blamed “political grandstanding” in the Senate for the current legislative standoff.

Mr. Brennan, in an interview that aired Sunday, also said the programs “really have helped stop attacks,” although he didn’t cite specific incidents.

“The tools that the government has used over the last dozen years to keep this country safe are integral to making sure that we’re able to stop terrorists in their tracks,” he told CBS ’s “Face the Nation.”

This is your thread, and it will most likely take well into the evening until we have a final answer one way or the other, but the same nagging questions hang over this Senate session today which have for weeks. There seems to be nearly universal agreement on both sides of the aisle that the data collections programs under discussion are needed to keep the country safe. At the same time, nobody seems to be able to come up with an example of where they’ve done anything concrete to stop a terrorist plot beyond catching one guy who sent a few thousand dollars to Jordan. So the question remains… are there more examples which they simply can’t tell us about or is it really not producing any results? And even if it’s not, is it worth sticking with the program in case it does find something in the future?

On the other side of the coin, it’s true that Rand Paul is running for president. And some might fairly speculate that he’s kind of been running for president since the day he was sworn in as a senator. But it’s also not as if this is a sudden change of tune for him. He’s been railing against government intrusion since he was trailing around behind his dad, so is it really fair to attack this as a campaign stunt on such a central issue?

I’ll leave those questions to you. We may or may not know anything by the time I call it a night.


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Comments

Schadenfreude

Bmore on June 1, 2015 at 1:01 PM

you may disagree with their policies, but when dems say they want to get more people healthcare, or pull out of wars, or hike taxes on the rich, or provide economic stimulus, they do it.

but when republicans say they want smaller government, lower taxes, smaller deficits and more personal freedoms…somehow when they’re in power the opposite happens.

everdiso on June 1, 2015 at 11:26 AM

Both of these statements are absolutely true.
But, there is not much practical difference between a party that does the wrong things, and one that doesn’t do the right things.

Which is the focus of the debate on precisely who now represents the people who thought they were represented by the GOP.

AesopFan on June 1, 2015 at 1:24 PM

Just gonna give me two cents and be done with it.

While there are aspects of the patriot act that are fine and proper, far too many other aspects are either constitutionally suspect, or far too easily abused. At this point, I’d support scrapping the whole thing and going back to the drawing board.

Kinda funny how many democrats are being quiet on this subject though, considering that that railed against the Patriot Act endlessly while Bush was in office. Guess they don’t care about constitutionality if it’s their guy in office. XD

WolvenOne on June 1, 2015 at 2:02 PM

So, Senator Paul, what is you solution.

You and your anti war kooks want to wait until they are at our collective door steps.

You and your anti war poll spamming kooks can not get crap done other than join in with the real commie Democrat kooks and be bit players in the real Climate Change cult.

Just that, I for one know the anti war loons oh so very well.

Met your parents at LAX in 1970 after my 2 1/2 years searching for babies to kill out in Laos, where the Russians and ones of China where the ones shooting back even then.

Rand Paul is the gene code spreading problem.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on May 31, 2015 at 3:45 PM

All Rand Paul does is complain about these issues but never offers any solutions. In fact, he’s a lot like Obama in that he never shows up to important meetings:

Behind closed doors in the Senate’s Strom Thurmond Room, Republican senators lashed out at the junior Kentucky Republican’s defiant stance to force the expiration of key sections of the PATRIOT Act, a law virtually all of them support. Indiana Sen. Dan Coats’ criticism was perhaps the most biting: He accused the senator of “lying” about the matter in order to raise money for his presidential campaign, according to three people who attended the meeting.

The message may have gotten through to Paul except for one thing: The libertarian-minded senator skipped the hour-long meeting. That only infuriated his colleagues more.

“Anything that goes against anything he believes, he never comes,” Coats said in an interview. “It’s always helpful if you’re in there working to have your position understood, and we all learn a lot and we all try to come to a much better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
“He needed to be there,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). “He really needed to be there.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that Paul has missed “a number of meetings” Republicans have held on the PATRIOT Act in recent weeks. He contended there was an obvious political reason for Paul’s stance, pointing out how his colleague was tweeting supporters taking “selfies” of themselves next to Paul speaking on TV.

Source.

Conservative Samizdat on June 1, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Conservative Samizdat on June 1, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Talking to the American people about what’s going on in Washington is far more important than meeting with John McTraitor behind closed doors.

TBSchemer on June 1, 2015 at 4:09 PM

but when republicans say they want smaller government, lower taxes, smaller deficits and more personal freedoms…somehow when they’re in power the opposite happens.

everdiso on June 1, 2015 at 11:26 AM

Which is why I am hoping someone like Carly will actually have a chance…get rid of politicians, and start realizing we don’t need a professional political class to rule us.

right2bright on June 1, 2015 at 6:03 PM

Talking to the American people about what’s going on in Washington is far more important than meeting with John McTraitor behind closed doors.

TBSchemer on June 1, 2015 at 4:09 PM

You need to do both…just talking does nothing, it accomplishes nothing.

You have to form a meeting, a plan and implement that with people, not just talk to the press and campaign.

That is the problem with having politicians…they want to talk and explain, and campaign…and the American people want a plan to get things done.

Leaders don’t run out and whine to the public, they go to the meetings and lead…then come out and tell us where you are leading us.

Rand is a nice guy, intelligent, but not a leader…a great vote getter.

right2bright on June 1, 2015 at 6:06 PM

You need to do both…just talking does nothing, it accomplishes nothing.

Meeting with John McCain does nothing. He fundamentally disagrees with Paul and the American people.

Leaders don’t run out and whine to the public, they go to the meetings and lead…then come out and tell us where you are leading us.

Rand has explained where he will lead us…if he becomes President. The problem right now is the people who control the government are out of touch.

Rand is a nice guy, intelligent, but not a leader…a great vote getter.

right2bright on June 1, 2015 at 6:06 PM

He most certainly is a great vote-getter. Better than anyone else running for the Republican nomination, at least: http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/01/marco-rubio-and-rand-paul-pose-greatest-threat-to-hillary-clinton/

TBSchemer on June 1, 2015 at 7:23 PM

Jazz, do you remember when Neville Chamberlain stepped off the plane waving the paper in the air and proclaiming peace in our time? That’s the last time anyone was as wrong as you are with this post.

The PATRIOT ACT has done exactly nothing to make us safer. The NSA bulk collection has done nothing to prevent any terrorist attacks.

So besides being Unconstitutional and immoral, it is also ineffective.

Ronald Reagan famously said that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party. It left him. I kind of understand how he felt. Because I’m watching the Republican Party, and Conservatives, leave me.

When I was younger, the word Conservative was synonymous with the principle of strict adherence to the Constitution. It was Constitution first, last, and always. Now, Conservative is synonymous with Authoritarianism. The Government is always right, no matter how many laws they break. That is the traits of other nations. Ones who write their Constitution in Pencil.

Snake307 on June 2, 2015 at 6:35 AM

The Orwellian-named “Patriot Act” was enacted on the theory that US Citizens are safest when they are locked in a Federal prison under 24/7 surveillance.

The act was wrongly targeted and unconstitutionally implemented.

Government should have its back to the citizens it is sworn to protect and direct its guns OUTWARD…not INWARD.

I am a staunch conservative who believes that the Patriot Act should be forever buried in the same grave as Obamacare…for many of the same reasons!!

landlines on June 2, 2015 at 12:16 PM

There is nothing good about it. How did a bill that was 800 pages materialize overnight for Congress to pass it right after 9/11?

IT WAS ALREADY SITTING IN A DRAWER WAITING FOR A CRISIS TO GET IT PASSED.

The Patriot Act has NOTHING to do with 9/11, it is another Statist Fascist power grab that was passed at a moment of opportunity.

ConstantineXI on May 31, 2015 at 8:27 PM

ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

just like Obamacare

landlines on June 2, 2015 at 4:40 PM