President Obama is still pounding the drum for NSA surveillance powers that have been hung up in Congress. Without legislation, key portions of the PATRIOT Act, including the section that NSA argues authorizes cellphone metadata collection, will expire at midnight on Sunday night. Obama wants a partial replacement created by the House to get a vote in the Senate:
“The House of Representatives did its work and came up with what they’ve called the USA Freedom Act, which strikes an appropriate balance; our intelligence communities are confident that they can work with the authorities that are provided in that act; it passed on a bipartisan basis and overwhelmingly. It was then sent to the Senate. The Senate did not act.”
Sen. McConnell is calling the Senate back into session on Sunday, but it does not look like he can actually move legislation in time to prevent a lapse. He would need unanimous consent to proceed, but why would Sen. Paul go along with that? This and drones are Paul’s top 2016 issues, and he has broad support for killing the PATRIOT Act even if there is no replacement for surveillance powers. Here’s Paul:
“Five days,” Paul wrote in a Tuesday message to supporters. “That’s how long you and I have until the U.S. Senate meets in a rare Sunday session on May 31st where surveillance state apologists will do everything they can to RAM through an extension of the so-called ‘PATRIOT Act’s’ ILLEGAL and unconstitutional domestic spying programs.”
“I’m not backing down. I’m not going to compromise. I’m going to stand and fight until the very last moment — regardless of the smears and attacks I face,” Paul wrote in the email.
Oh, by the way, the telephone companies will continue to store and preserve cellphone metadata even if the PATRIOT Act is allowed to expire. It just won’t be immediately turned over to NSA for storage as well. I’m sure it’ll be no problem for NSA to reacquire that information when the House and Senate eventually work out a compromise—perhaps even in the cutely-named USA Freedom Act.
While we’re talking about Paul, he had a fun comment at a book store in New York yesterday: “Snowden and Clapper should be in the same cell, talking about liberty and security.” This has long been a theme for Paul, who insists that Clapper’s misleading testimony to Congress is a worse crime than Snowden’s.