In an effort to get PATRIOT Act renewed by midnight tonight, the White House told ABC News that if the expiring provisions "are allowed to lapse, even temporarily, the nation will be less safe."
While this is not actually true–current investigations will be grandfathered in and allowed to do all the domestic spying they want–the White House also succeeded in spinning the New York Times:
If there is a lapse, a senior administration official said, the F.B.I. would be able to continue using orders it had already obtained, but it would not be able to apply for new ones if further tips and leads came in about a possible terrorist operation. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, reacted with alarm to that prospect, saying no one could predict what the consequences of a temporary lapse might be.
"This is unprecedented," the official said. "We don't believe the risk is worth it."
In noting this, Glenn Greenwald writes that the NYT granted "anonymity to a 'senior administration official' to voice the same fear-mongering claims [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] is voicing over the Patriot Act." But I think he's got the order of influence wrong. Intelligence officials met privately with House Republicans last month, and with Senate Democrats this week to push for reauthorization. And yesterday, reports the Washington Post, "Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote to Reid and McConnell on Wednesday urging them to move forward with the reauthorization."
These talking points are coming from the White House, not the other way around. I think we're seeing them from the White House now because the White House is desperate. If the PATRIOT Act lapses, and a sarlacc does not swallow LAX immediately after, it'll be that much harder to convince Americans that those provisions are necessary.