I am ready and willing to start the debate on how we fight terrorism without giving up our liberty.
Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over. The tax code and our regulatory burdens are two good examples.
Fighting against unconditional, illegal powers that take away our rights, taken by previous Congresses and administrations is just as important.
Because of the nature of the Senate rules, Paul can force the expiration of the PATRIOT Act, which he has vowed on the campaign trail to repeal as president because he contends it invades Americans’ privacy rights.
In a rare Sunday session, McConnell, sources said, appears likely to move the USA Freedom Act, despite his opposition to how the bill overhauls the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program. That’s because McConnell has little other choice given the vast support within Congress for the bill.
“If I were those guys who were objecting, I’d be very nervous about taking a position that would potentially compromise national security,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who opposes the House bill.
In an appearance in Kentucky on Tuesday, McConnell acknowledged the strong support for the USA Freedom Act “makes it pretty challenging to extend the law as it is.”…
Lee, in a phone interview Tuesday, was confident that the USA Freedom Act could advance on Sunday if McConnell allows another vote on it. Several senators told Lee before the chamber killed a two-month extension of all expiring PATRIOT Act provisions that if the choice is to approve the House bill or let the PATRIOT Act provisions lapse, they’ll back the House bill.
When the senators convene at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, they will have three options to keep sections of the Patriot Act from expiring: Pass a temporary extension of the Patriot Act, pass the USA Freedom Act (which would end the NSA’s practice of bulk collection of phone records–the date, time, and length, but not the content, of phone calls–while reauthorizing the rest of the Patriot Act), or pass a revised version of the USA Freedom Act. Before the Memorial Day recess, the Senate fell three votes shy from ending debate on the House-passed USA Freedom Act and came up 15 votes short of passing a clean two-month extension of the Patriot Act…
Although it remains unclear how the Senate will proceed, it appears likely the government will lose access to these anti-terrorist tools for at least a day or two. “If there is any objection, final passage would not be on Sunday. More likely on Tuesday or Wednesday,” a senior GOP leadership aide tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. And Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican presidential candidate, will likely object to a vote on any measure that would allow expiring sections of the Patriot Act to continue.
“Sen. Paul will object to voting for the USA Freedom Act as it is,” Paul’s spokeswoman Jillian Lane tells TWS in an email. Even though the USA Freedom Act (which passed the House 338 to 88) has the backing of the libertarian Cato Institute and has been criticized by some national security hawks, Paul opposes it because it doesn’t go far enough.
Several factors have combined to force the showdown. The revelations of the breadth of the program have increased voter distrust of it, members of Congress said. American companies have complained that foreign customers have been turned off by their products because of fears their privacy would be at risk if they purchased computers and cellphones made in the United States. Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans make up a growing alliance of members as concerned with civil liberties as national security.
“People who could not agree on anything have come together on this issue,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “That has created a different dynamic in Congress, which has been so partisan over the last several years. These divisions are not along party lines. They are over something else entirely.”
House lawmakers say they’re in no mood to bail the Senate out if it once again can’t muster the votes needed to head off a possible filibuster by surveillance opponents, most notably Senator Rand Paul and his allies, including Ted Cruz. Both men are running for president.
Schiff said the Freedom Act narrowly failed to pass—by three votes—in large part because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whipped senators not to support it. If the surveillance authorities expire, McConnell will bear the blame, Schiff said.
“This is something that ought to give McConnell great pause. I think he’s playing with fire here.”
The top members of the House Judiciary Committee have also warned their colleagues in the other chamber. “If the Senate chooses to allow these authorities to expire, they should do so knowing that sunset may be permanent,” Representatives Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and John Conyers of Michigan, the chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, warned in a statement last week.
Officials said the government would begin “winding down” the bulk data collection program during the week leading up to the June 1 deadline.
A U.S. administration official who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive information said “taking down the system” involves shutting off inputs between telecom companies and U.S. intelligence, “bringing down servers” and configuring “our monitoring software” to keep officials from accessing any data at telecommunication companies.
“We lock the system down so that there is no chance that data comes or data could be accessed during that time frame,” the official said…
“Really it’s about just letting them know that on midnight on the 31st, they’re not going to be able to provide the legal documents and the warrant and we’re not going to give them anything,” the telecommunications company official said.
“We fought a revolution over this,” Paul told a Republican Party meeting Friday in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “John Adams said that the spark that led to the American Revolution was James Otis’ fight against general warrants,” Paul said, referring to the colonial Massachusetts lawyer credited with popularizing the phrase, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”
Paul said there was no deal on the NSA provisions that could meet civil libertarians’ demands…
“I think this whole thing is ridiculous,” Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican and chairman of the House intelligence committee, said in a phone interview on Friday. Nunes sponsored the House bill. “It may be a joke to some and nice fundraising gimmicks, but at the end of the day it won’t be funny if somebody gets killed,” he said.
Without the Patriot Act in place, Obama warned, the nation’s security would be at risk. “I don’t want us to be in a situation where for a certain period of time those authorities go away,” he said Friday in the Oval Office. “And heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”…
Obama said he’d reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and urged Senators to “take action and take action swiftly.
“This is not an issue where we have to choose between security and civil liberties, this is an issue in which we in fact have struck the right balance and shaped a piece of legislation that everybody can support. So let’s go out and get it done,” he said.
The “domestic spying” fears have a resonance they would not otherwise have because the Obama administration abuses its powers. It has an undeniable track record of using the IRS, the Justice Department, and other federal agencies to persecute political opponents. While serving as Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ likely presidential nominee by acclamation, even threatened to use “old fashioned techniques of peer-pressure and shaming” in order to suppress constitutionally protected speech disfavored by the administration.
The public does not trust this government to refrain from abusing its powers. If you tell people there are no known cases of the NSA using the metadata program to spy on Americans, they understandably assume that such cases simply haven’t come to light yet, not that they haven’t happened…
The best thing that could happen in this bleak scenario would be a brief extension that would enable program advocates to do better than the feeble job they’ve done to date defending the program. In the alternative, it is nearing time to hold our noses, accept the USA Freedom Act, and get cracking on a compelling political and legal argument to restore the program — one that can change minds in Congress and be signed by the next president.
The depiction of national-security agents who are trying to protect American lives as seventies-style rogues tearing the Constitution to bits is a smear. But a smear is something, and something always beats nothing. The metadata debate is not over, but this battle is. It’s time to accept defeat gracefully, get as much as we still can for national defense, and resolve to do better in the next round.
Taken together, I think that Paul’s popular actions against the Patriot Act, government questioning of its effectiveness, and meaningful legal challenges it all point in the same direction: We are as a country finally coming out of the fog generated in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The Global War on Terror is being reevaluated at every level, from tactics to strategy to relevance. This is a good thing and augurs well for significant changes in the near future.
Paul is taking a beating for being the only Republican—and only major presidential candidate of either party—who seriously questions the intelligence-industrial complex and a hyper-inerventionist foreign policy. That may mean he’ll have some rough sledding in early Republican primaries. But he’s also the only candidate who is speaking truth to power on this score and his insight that 215 bulk collection is neither useful nor legal is already being corroborated by other sources.
“Some folks are trying to use this debate to score political points,” said Obama, an apparent dig at presidential candidate Paul, who sent out campaign emails to supporters of his filibuster…
“Terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow,” Obama said. “We shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe … It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless, we shouldn’t allow it to happen.”