Rand Paul Was Protesting Harry Reid, Not Benjamin Netanyahu


An item by Politico's Scott Wong suggests that Sen. Rand Paul "skipped" an address by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today in protest of Israel

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a warm welcome from a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) skipped out on the speech, sitting quietly at his Senate desk shuffling through papers and newspapers.

Earlier this year, Paul proposed eliminating all U.S. aid to Israel, but his office and other Republican senators said Paul's decision to remain on the Senate floor during the address concerned a dispute with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over amendments Paul proposed to the Patriot Act extension. 

Paul is protesting Sen. Harry Reid, not Bibi. "The reason Senator Paul stayed on the floor is because the clock is ticking on the PATRIOT Act, and Harry Reid wanted to waste three hours of debate," one of his staffers told me. (It's also worth noting that Paul attended last night's AIPAC dinner, and that he wasn't the only GOP senator who didn't attend today's event with Netanyahu.) 

On the PATRIOT Act front, Paul is pushing hard for several amendments, despite the fact that both Democratic and Republican leadership in the House and the Senate want to renew the law as is for another four years. He's joined forces with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) to propose an amendment regarding warrantless wiretaps, and authored a few all his own (listed below). At the moment, Paul is trying to rally support for the "Firearm Records Amendment," which "clarifies that the authority to obtain info under the USA PATRIOT Act does not include authority to obtain certain firearm records." 

Full list of Paul's amendments, which his office released yesterday:

Burden-Shifting Suspicious Activity Report Amendment: Requires law enforcement to initiate requests for suspicious activity reports (SARs). Shifts the burden for generating suspicious activity reports to law enforcement, requiring FBI/other law enforcement to initiate requests for SARs, rather than requiring financial institutions to automatically generate these reports.

National Security Letters Issued by Judges: States that no officer or employee of the United States may issue a National Security Letter (NSL) unless a FISA court judge finds that probable cause exists to issue the NSL. Brings NSLs into compliance with plain text of Fourth Amendment.

Firearm Records Amendment: Clarifies that the authority to obtain info under the USA PATRIOT Act does not include authority to obtain certain firearm records. Supported by Gun Owners of America.

Roving Wiretaps Amendment: This amendment eliminates the possibility of "John Doe" roving wiretaps that identify neither the person nor the phone to be wiretapped. Also requires government agents to ascertain the presence of the target of a roving wiretap before beginning surveillance of a particular phone or email, using the same standard that is already required for criminal roving taps.

Leahy/Paul Amendment: This amendment consists of the substance of Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) PATRIOT Act reform bill (S. 193) as reported from the Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10-7 (those voting in favor included Sen. Mike Lee [R-Utah]).

Section 215/Access to Business Records: Restores the pre-PATRIOT Act standard for obtaining records. (Supported by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of Research Libraries.)

"Good Faith Standard" Suspicious Activity Report Amendment: This amendment would implement a reform that was previously proposed by the Financial Services Roundtable. This reform will help reduce the high number of "defensive filings" submitted by financial institutions due to their fear of being penalized for failure to file a suspicious activity report (SAR). It codifies a "good faith standard" to ensure that if a financial institution has established a SAR decision-making process, has followed existing policies, procedures, and processes, and determines not to file a SAR, the bank or credit union would not be penalized for its failure to file the SAR unless the failure was accompanied by evidence of bad faith.

Judicial Review of Suspicious Activity Reports: States that the Secretary of the Treasury may not require any financial institution to submit a suspicious activity report unless an appropriate district court of the United States issues an order finding that probable cause exists to obtain the information.

Minimization/Destruction of NSL and Section 215 Business Records Info: Directs the Attorney General to establish minimization and destruction procedures governing the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of private information by the FBI. The purpose is to ensure that private information obtained outside the scope of an NSL or Section 215 order is appropriately disposed of or destroyed.