The USA Freedom Act passed the Senate this afternoon 67-32. Unfortunately, this act renews most of the provisions of the Patriot Act that expired Sunday night. On the plus side, the sections that were used (perhaps illegally, although the Supreme Court never weighed in) to authorize bulk data collection without a warrant were not renewed. The new act still allows access to the data, but only with specific warrants – and the telcos save the data itself, not the NSA.
On the negative side, two additional amendments proposed by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) were not even considered by the Senate. Those two amendments would have weakened the bulk data collection even more.
At the end of the day this is still a legislative and ideological victory for Rand Paul. Without his filibuster, and without forcing the clock to run out, there’s a halfway decent chance we would’ve ended up with the full, unaltered Patriot Act renewed. This is definitely better than that.
How will this play out for Senator Paul’s presidential campaign? I have no idea. I, for one, am happy to see it, for two reasons. First, on ideological principle I’m with him. But second, and almost more importantly, Senator Paul made a stand on principle. In this day and age, that’s an incredibly rare thing for a politician to do. The angrier the party “leadership” gets over this, the happier I am, personally. Party leadership on both sides of the aisle is corrupt and shortsighted. Following their lead on anything is far from the best course for our nation.
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