Senate Inaction Results In Expiration Of Patriot Act’s Orwellian Surveillance Powers

Senator Rand Paul, a presidential hopeful for the Republican party, was ultimately successful in his ongoing effort to prevent the U.S. Senate from voting on extensions to key provisions of the Patriot Act. As a result, the National Security Agency's legal authority to collect telephone records in bulk expired at the stroke of midnight Monday.

"Tonight we stopped the illegal NSA bulk data collection. This is a victory no matter how you look at it," Rand said in a statement. "It might be short lived, but I hope that it provides a road for a robust debate, which will strengthen our intelligence community, while also respecting our Constitution."

Patriot Act Watching You
Image Source: Flickr (Ashleigh Nushawg)

There were three provisions of the post-911 Patriot Act that expired. One of those was Section 215, which gave the NSA authority to collect telephone metadata in bulk. There was also a "lone wolf" provision that give intelligence agencies to follow terrorists who might not be part of a terrorist group, and a provision for roving wiretaps so that intelligence agencies could track someone who was using different telephone lines to evade detection.

Not everyone in the Republican party was happy with Rand's filibustering, including Senator John McCain, who said the presidential hopeful had placed a "higher priority on his fundraising and his ambitions than on the security of the nation."

Senators are now debating the USA Freedom Act, a bill that was passed by the House of Representatives with strong support from President Barack Obama, but was shot down in the Senate by a 57-to-42 vote, coming up three votes short of the 60 needed. It's expected that amendments will be made to the bill.