Beginning Tuesday afternoon, presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., embarked upon his latest filibuster, this time in hopes of stalling the renewal of the USA Patriot Act. Based on his track record, we can safely expect him to entirely reverse his position within the week.
Before we get too carried away with using the word “filibuster” to describe what he’s doing, it’s not an actual filibuster because as of Wednesday evening Eastern time, there isn’t any Senate business that’d be delayed on the floor by his filibuster; therefore he’s not stalling a vote nor is he preventing the Senate from debating anything. So, technically, Paul is just talking a lot. However, if he continues past midnight Wednesday night, Paul’s monologue will begin to flummox some important proceedings.
Primarily, it’ll delay a vote that would give President Obama fast-track authority on implementing the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Secondarily, and ironically, it could also delay a vote on the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of electronic metadata. It’s safe to say that such a delay is an unintended negative consequence for die-hard Paul supporters on both the libertarian right, as well as Edward Snowden supporters on the left. Especially ironic is the fact that Paul tweeted at the outset of his filibuster, “It’s time to end the NSA spying!” Delaying the Freedom Act would, in effect, allow NSA spying to continue.
I’m not a Rand Paul fan or supporter by any stretch. I’m pleased someone, anyone will step up and filibuster the Patriot Act. We don’t need it, the evidence it is necessary is scant and what there is is rather self serving and vague. So with a little admission I’d love a more credible ally, I won’t miss the Patriot Act if it goes down.
With only days left to act and Rand Paul threatening a filibuster, Senate Republicans remain deeply divided over the future of the PATRIOT Act and have no clear path to keep key government spying authorities from expiring at the end of the month.
Crucial parts of the PATRIOT Act, including a provision authorizing the government’s controversial bulk collection of American phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, are due to lapse May 31. That means Congress has barely a week to figure out a fix before before lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day recess at the end of the next week.
The prospects of a deal look grim: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday night proposed just a two-month extension of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions to give the two sides more time to negotiate, but even that was immediately dismissed by critics of the program.
The party of smaller government has an idea.
Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate majority leader, urged lawmakers Thursday to renew the expiring section of the Patriot Act that the National Security Agency says authorizes the bulk telephone metadata spying program. That’s the same section that the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled hours earlier didn’t justify the NSA’s phone spying program.
“They’re not running rogue out there,” McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. “The NSA is overseen by the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government.”
Crystal clear admission they want data that has nothing whatsoever to do with any actual investigation. But the law is supposed to (and formerly did) insist on a relevant connection to an actual investigation to make a warrant available, or a search appropriate.
This as much as anything elsa that relates to the Patriot Act and FISA must change. Abuse is inevitable. Some point at the NSA’a internal controls which are said to be strong, capable, and unfortunately Top Secret.
Do we or do we not have a general consensus that self regulating is inadequate? outside checks are required. LAPD has internal and external controls. Please consider how they have performed even with that level of oversight. Rampart. SIS. Accusations of racism on racial profiling. The dark record on the Grim Sleeper case. And that is with outside oversight.
So given the obvious history why would we depend on internal checks only, and secret ones at that at the NSA?
Lawyers for secure email provider Lavabit just filed the reply brief in a case that will determine whether an internet company can be compelled to turn over the master encryption keys for its entire system to facilitate court-approved surveillance on a single user.
It bears repeating: the government has no general entitlement to search through the information of an innocent business. It may do so only to the extent that the law and Constitution permit. The government proposed, in this case, to search through a vast amount of data to find a tiny amount relevant to its investigation, with no oversight from anyone, at a time when the government’s theories of its own surveillance power are at their apex. It ruined a small business in doing so […]
The surveillance statutes and the Fourth Amendment do not allow the government to chart this course. The judgment of the district court should therefore be reversed.
I support this bill. It’s past time for the top to bottom public review of agency powers. The promise of a sunset clause on the Patriot Act has been broken.
History leaves no doubt. Powerful agencies like the NSA, FBI and local police will assume limits on old technology does not apply to new technology. See Capability is Driving Policy, Not Just at the NSA But Also in Police Departments
Over the last several months, members of Congress have introduced at least two dozen spying reform and transparency bills. Today, a new proposal called the USA FREEDOM Act from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was introduced to significantly limit the collection and use of Americans’ information under our nation’s spying laws. The ACLU strongly supports the legislation.
The bill is notable for its sponsors alone.
Rep. Sensenbrenner was the lead author of the Patriot Act and now is the chair of the House’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Crime. A conservative member of Congress, he has repeatedly supported surveillance laws in the past, but now he’s leading the charge for reform. According to Rep. Sensenbrenner, two consecutive White Houses have wrongly used his Patriot Act to collect the phone records of innocent Americans, and he wants it to stop. “This misinterpretation of the law threatens our First, Second and Fourth Amendment rights,” Rep. Sensenbrenner recently said. “Congress never intended this. I will rein in the abuse of both the Patriot Act and the U.S. Constitution with the support of the American public.”
Sen. Leahy is the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which also has jurisdiction over the Patriot Act and FISA. He also believes the government’s indiscriminate collection of Americans’ records must end, because the “government has not made its case that this is an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on Americans’ privacy rights.”
The USA FREEDOM Act
Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet Collection, and Online Monitoring Act
H.R. 3361/ S. 1599
Purpose: To rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC.
End bulk collection of Americans’ communications records
• The USA Freedom Act ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
• The bill would strengthen the prohibition on “reverse targeting” of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American.
• The bill requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs.
Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
• The USA Freedom Act creates an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings. The OSA will have the authority to appeal decisions of the FISA court.
• The bill creates new and more robust reporting requirements to ensure that Congress is aware of actions by the FISC and intelligence community as a whole.
• The bill would grant the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena authority to investigate issues related to privacy and national security.
• The USA Freedom Act would end secret laws by requiring the Attorney General to publicly disclose all FISC decisions issued after July 10, 2003 that contain a significant construction or interpretation of law.
• Under the bill, Internet and telecom companies would be allowed to publicly report an estimate of (1) the number of FISA orders and national security letters received, (2) the number of such orders and letters complied with, and (3) the number of users or accounts on whom information was demanded under the orders and letters.
• The bill would require the government to make annual or semiannual public reports estimating the total number of individuals and U.S. persons that were subject to FISA orders authorizing electronic surveillance, pen/trap devices, and access to business records.
National Security Letters
• The USA Freedom Act adopts a single standard for Section 215 and NSL protection to ensure the Administration doesn’t use different authorities to support bulk collection. It also adds a sunset date to NSLs requiring that Congress reauthorize the government’s authority thereby ensuring proper congressional review.
I’m not endorsing the whole of this article. In fact I’m disappointed it did not specifically exclude certain sources information. The headline is just overblown. But some interesting points remain. So for discussion if you like, please read the whole thing at the link. The fact this man was a key author of the Patriot Act makes this a must read for anyone paying serious attention to the Patriot Act and the recent NSA issues.
I would be a lot more comfortable with the data collection if the use for non terror investigations was prohibited. We do not IMO want this caught up in the war of drugs in any domestic sense. I’m not even sure I like the Patriot Act being used to chase the cartels but admittedly my feelings there are mixed, or maybe just conflicted.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has been a member of Congress since 1978 and is the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He is the primary author the Patriot Act.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the collection of certain business records — in this case, phone records — when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records are relevant to an authorized investigation into international terrorism. The key legal term is “relevance.”
Under this relevance standard, the administration has collected the details of every call made by every American, even though the overwhelming majority of these calls have nothing to do with terrorism. Since first learning of the program this spring, I have been a vocal critic of such dragnet collection as a gross invasion of privacy and a violation of Section 215.
The administration’s memo begins by acknowledging that its interpretation of the statute is at odds with the plain meaning of “relevance.” It argues there is a “particularized legal meaning” of relevance, but it ultimately concedes that it fails to meet this standard as well.
The legal definition grew out of case law related to grand jury subpoenas and civil discovery. In these areas, courts have adopted a somewhat broader concept of relevance, finding that documents can be relevant not only when they directly bear on the subject matter at hand but also when they could reasonably lead to other information that directly bears on that subject matter. Think of it as second-degree relevance.
Ever since I read Brin’s The Transparent Society I’ve liked his program of transparency and accountability far more than the fashionable alternative of encryption and secrecy (well, secrecy for me but not for thee). Encryption can be good, but it doesn’t democratize power the way reciprocal accountability does.
For example, the so-called “deep web” is useful to cyber-libertarians and outright criminals alike, with very few ways of tracking down the dealers in drugs, weapons, and human beings.
He also offers some (in my opinion) essential remedies to the current problem of unaccountable government surveillance:
“I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded,” proclaimed Snowden, with unintended irony, as he ripped veils off those he disliked. But the answer isn’t to cower or hide from Big Brother, nor to blind our watchdogs. The solution is to answer surveillance with sousveillance, or looking back at the mighty from below. Instead of obsessing on what the F.B.I. and N.S.A. may know, let’s demand fierce tools of supervision to keep the dog from becoming a wolf.
Start by replacing the secret, star-chamber FISA court with one that is confidential but adversarially contested and accountable, as any true court should be. Put a short time limit on the gag orders in national security letters, making them less terrifyingly Orwellian. Take today’s inspectors general out of bed with the agencies they oversee, and have them answer instead to an inspector general of the United States, whose first duty is to the law, and to us.
Above all, stop obsessing on lines in the sand, fussing over redefining “warrantless searches.” Trying to impose limits to what inherently cannot be limited. Change the truly scary parts of the Patriot Act, that let authorities peer at us unsupervised.
In the month since a national security contractor leaked classified documents revealing a vast sweep of Americans’ phone records by the federal government, people across the country have disagreed about the extent to which our expectation of personal privacy must yield to the demands of national security.
The Obama administration, in a new court filing, urged the nation’s surveillance court to throw out a request by civil liberties groups to disclose its secret rulings about the scope and legality of the Patriot Act.
More: The Laws You Can’t See