Will the NSA-collection provisions of the Patriot Act expire tonight?

The US Senate has convened for a rare Sunday session for the purpose of holding debate on extension of parts of the Patriot Act relating to NSA surveillance.  Those parts will sunset and expire at midnight if the Senate fails to take action.  Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has pledged to ensure that they do expire by any means necessary.

The neoconservatives in the Republican party have come out in force to try to remind Americans about the importance of “fighting terrorism” and “the victims of 9-11.”  Sen. McCain (R-AZ) went as far as to say that the NSA data collection programs are “more important than ever.”  And Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) stated that popular interpretations of the NSA programs based on Snowden documents were “Just false,” stating, “There has not been one act of abuse of this program.”

Senator Paul fought back hard by reminding Sen. Coats that “The head of the intelligence agency lied to the American people. And he still works here!”  Against his Republican colleagues remarks about the necessity of bulk collection, Paul shouted a viable alternative:  “GET A WARRANT.”

Updates to follow:

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5:51 PM EST

Senate in recess until about 6:00 PM for “closed door meetings.”

Here is a link to the CSPAN stream:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?326227-1/us-senate-debate-nsa-surveillance&live

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6:15 PM EST

Senate has returned from recess.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY and the Majority Leader) has called for extending other provisions of the Patriot Act while extending debate on section 215.  He called for unanimous consent to allow a vote on this narrow extension.  Senator Paul objects.

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6:20 PM EST

“Demagoguery and disinformation.”  Senator McConnell echoed Sen. Coats stating that there has not been a single proven instance of abuse by the NSA bulk collection program.  He explicitly blamed “the unlawful actions of Edward Snowden” for public opinion considering the NSA.

It took my 5 seconds to google examples of NSA agents abusing other programs.  Why should I accept your assertions, Senator McConnel, when 1) we’ve been lied to before by James Clapper and 2) the NSA has proven to abuse its power in the past?

McConnel calls to revote on cloture.

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6:30 PM EST

Vote currently proceeding to limit debate on H.R, 2048 (current version of USA FREEDOM Act), which would extend the expiring Patriot Act provisions concerning NSA bulk data collection, with some reforms.

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6:34 PM EST

The vote to limit debate needs 60 votes.  Current total is 48 yes, 8 no.

Ron Wyden (D-OR) is one of those yes votes.  He has been a key figure along with Rand Paul in opposition to the Patriot Act.  This is surprising.

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6:41 PM EST

There’s 60 votes.

Here is the bill https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2048

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6:44 PM EST

Some of the business language of HR 2048 (current version of USA FREEDOM Act):

“(Sec. 101) Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to establish a new process to be followed when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) submits an application to a FISA court for an order requiring the production of business records or other tangible things for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a U.S. person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. (The FBI currently uses such authority to request FISA orders requiring telephone companies to produce telephone call records to the National Security Agency.)”

“(Sec. 705) Amends the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to extend until December 15, 2019, FISA authorities concerning: (1) the production of business records, including call detail records and other tangible things; (2) roving electronic surveillance orders; and (3) a revised definition of “agent of a foreign power” that includes any non-U.S. persons who engage in international terrorism or preparatory activities (commonly referred to as the “lone wolf” provision). (Currently, such provisions are scheduled to expire on June 1, 2015.)”

Sen. Paul and other critics have stated repeatedly that this bill doesn’t go far enough to limit the actions of the NSA.

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7:07 PM EST

Final vote to move forward to vote on USA Freedom Act: 77 -17 in the affirmative.

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7:09 PM EST

Sen. Paul rises to speak.

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7:11 PM EST

Paul:  “It concerns me that the President, who supports bulk data collection… supports this bill.”

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7:16 PM EST

Paul:  “The Patriot act was originally intended to go after foreigners and terrorists.  We allowed a less than constitutional standard…  We now use parts of the Patriot Act to arrest people for domestic crime…. Little by little we’ve allowed our freedom to slip away.”

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7:20 PM EST

Paul’s warns that the USA Freedom Act will leave NSA collection in legal darkness:

“This means that the court case may never be heard before the Supreme Court now.”

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7:22 PM EST

Paul:

“Unless we can go to a system where we can individualize the warrants.. I’m going to be very very concerned.”

“They define U.S person as also meaning coorporation or association or grouping”

“What is to stop them from going back and putting AT&T or Verizon into the selection? …Will we be trading bulk collection in Utah for bulk collection in the telephone company?”

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7:22 PM EST

Paul’s proposed amendments:

1) Disallow corporations to be used as “persons” targeted.

2) Force Constitutional standard for probable cause.

3) Any information gathered under a non-Constitutional standard must only be used for foreigners and terrorists.

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7:28 PM EST

Paul targets President Obama:

“The president has continued to do this illegally… the truth of the matter is that congress never authorized this.  Even the authors of the Patriot Act [said as much]. This wasn’t created by congress.  The question that’s never been asked by anyone in the media is: why doesn’t he stop this?”

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7:30 PM EST

Paul:

“The danger to having arbitrary interpretation of the law… is that they can be used with bias.

In the 60’s, the bias was against civil rights activists and Vietnam War activists.

There was a generalization… based on the color of your skin.. or the shade of your ideology.

There is a danger in allowing the government to generalize without suspicion… Bias can enter into things.”

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7:32 PM EST

Paul:

“The NSA hasn’t been honest with us… The President should have let go the person that lied to us — the director of national intelligence.”

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7:43 PM EST

Paul yields the floor.  Wyden stands to speak.

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8:00 PM EST

The dust has settled.  McConnel didn’t get the clean re-authorization he wanted, meaning that some provisions of the Patriot Act will indeed expire at midnight.  However, this victory for civil libertarians may be short-lived, as the Senate successfully moved to advance HR 2048, the USA Freedom Act, which would extend those provisions — with important (though possibly ineffective, according to Paul) revisions.  Senator Paul in his long speech called for allowing amendments to the USA Freedom Act.  This is our summary of Paul’s proposed amendments as laid out in his speech (which we reported above):

1) Disallow corporations to be used as “persons” targeted.

2) Force Constitutional standard for probable cause.

3) Any information gathered under a non-Constitutional standard must only be used for foreigners and terrorists.

Senator Wyden, Paul’s partner during his earlier filibuster on NSA surveillance, rose after Paul and echoed his desire for allowing amendments.  This would send the bill back to the House, further delaying any reauthorization of those sections of the Patriot Act set to expire at midnight.