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May 20, 2015

Rand Paul Currently Filibustering the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act

CSPAN has live video.

There are three alternatives before Congress.

1, reauthorize the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which has been claimed to authorize Obama's mass records collection, subpoenaing every 90 days the metadata/call logs of every single citizen in America.

Note that the principle author of the Patriot Act, James Sensenbrenner, says that he never imagined Section 215 could possibly have this meaning. And a federal court has ruled this executive "interpretation" as an unconstitutional aggrandizement of executive power.

Also note that the plan is to explicitly authorize the mass collection of data in this new version of the law. Thus, the court's finding that it was unconstitutional, as an impermissible "interpretation" of the law, would be moot. The law would now specifically authorize the president to collect All the Records.

2, dump the Patriot Act and pass instead the USA FREEDOM Act. "USA Freedom" is a long, stupid backronym (making up an "acronym" from words you pick just to get the "acronym," like SHIELD, in the movies) that says something about ending mass records collection.

USA Freedom would direct the phone companies -- which have your information anyway, as they must -- to store the data formerly (?) collected under Section 215 for a long period. The US could then subpoena needed records from the phone companies, not in a mass collection, it is averred, but rather seeking only those records responsive to specific search terms.

3. Let the Patriot Act lapse, and do not pass USA Freedom as a substitute -- essentially, stop the NSA from collecting phone records, and also permit the phone companies to continue destroying them after a fairly short period of time.

I know some harder-core civil libertarians who support number 3. I don't.

I remember 9/11. And I remember that on 9/11, we all remembered the Church Committee. The Church Committee was a congressional inquiry in the 1970s to expose CIA wrongdoing in the previous two or three decades and prevent any of it from happening again.

What it was was a great overreaction -- America does not seem to react, only overreact -- which is widely believed to have damaged our intelligence-gathering and hence made us more vulnerable to 9/11 itself.

Now, that's a convenient narrative, which I'm sure is favored by the spooks who let us down before 9/11. The CIA never blames itself for losing an intelligence war; the fault is always that of Congress or the American people, for not giving it X surveillance power and Y means of targeting American residents.

But I do think it is substantially true. And I hear a lot of conservatives, deeply (and justifiably) suspicious of Obama and the Enemy State he rules over, wishing to limit the government's power to harass its citizens.

A government fully empowered to harass terrorists can also use that same power to harass its dissident citizens -- the ultimate terrorists, in the eyes of the power structure.

On the other hand:

A government crippled from ever even having the means of harassing its citizens can also never harass terrorists.

I just see a replay of the 1970s here. The post-9/11 overreaction will be "corrected" with an equally great overreaction in the other direction -- and then, after a major terrorist mass-casualty attack, we'll all go through the same process of overreacting the other way again.

I think it's important that this data be available, somewhere, in the case of a Ticking Time Bomb scenario. Which I think is a completely plausible scenario, and not some kind of wild fiction, as the many unimaginative dullards on the left believe it is.

(Always remember: If it hasn't happened before, it can't happen in the future! Muslim terrorists will never have the atomic bomb, even though the technology is more readily available every day that passes, because they haven't had it in the past!

That's #Science for the #StupidlyUnimaginative!)

Two years ago, when all of this broke, I proposed on the podcast that we pass a law requiring the telecom companies to preserve this data for long periods of time so that it would be available should the need arise.

That struck me as a decent enough proposal then, and it still strikes me as a decent proposal.

I'm told by those in the know that there are "still problems with USA Freedom." Whether they mean it permits the government to do too much, or permits it too little, I don't know.

But those who know also tell me it can be fixed by amendments and it will undergo further changes when (if) the House and Senate reconcile their own versions in conference.

I can't support Section 215 -- an illegal power grab by a paranoid and unbound executive -- but neither can I pretend, as some seem to, that the terrorist threat is over, and maybe never existed, and maybe was just something Dick Cheney made up.

It wasn't. It isn't.

So I support Paul's filibuster of the Patriot Act. Of course, establishment types like Mitch McConnell support renewing the Patriot Act, and adding in explicit authority to do that which Obama has previously simply assumed, because of course Republicans want the government to be as big and powerful as their Democrat counterparts do.

And I support the flawed USA FREEDOM bill, as atrocious as that stupid JV PR branding effort is, as a reasonable compromise.

Update: Mike Lee is now talking about the Church Committee (as part of Paul's filibuster).

Yes, this is because I'm psychic.

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posted by Ace at 04:23 PM

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