Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a presidential candidate, has made clear he planned to force the expiration of the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. The chamber’s rules allow him to do it, at least temporarily.
Terrorists “are looking for the seams to operate within,” CIA Director John Brennan said. “This is something that we can’t afford to do right now.” He bemoaned “too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue” and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.
Minutes before the Senate began its session, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a brief but strong statement warning of the impact if the parts of the Patriot Act expire.
“Al-Qaida, ISIL and other terrorists around the globe continue to plot attacks on America and our allies. Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” said Boehner, who urged the Senate to pass the House bill backed by the White House that would remake the National Security Agency’s phone collection program.
Senate backers, however, were three votes short.
Even if the legislation were to gain the needed support, in spite of opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all senators would need to agree to move to a final vote. Paul was not going along.
“I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” Paul said in a statement Saturday. “Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over.”
Paul cannot hold off a final vote indefinitely, just for a few days. But until the impasse was resolved, the NSA would lose legal authority to collect and search domestic phone records for connections to international terrorists — the once-secret program revealed by agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also would lapse: one, so far unused, helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones.
“The American people deserve better than this, especially when it comes to a program that is an integral part of protecting our national security,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who nonetheless predicted passage of the House plan by Wednesday.
A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Maine independent Angus King, found it to be an “unusual position” for Paul “to be talking about essentially unilaterally disarming an important national security tool at a time when I have never seen the threat level higher.”
The White House contended that letting the surveillance powers expire would jeopardize national security.
“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,” President Barack Obama said Friday.
The White House-backed USA Freedom Act would keep the programs operating, but shut down the bulk phone collection program over six months and give phone companies the job of maintaining records the government could search.
You mean they are going to have to dump all those sexting and phone sex records? Heaven forbid!
I have no problem with legitimate record keeping but they take everything to an extreme and want to keep an eye on everyone.
Now about all those license plates recordings and stingray equipment………….