Last night the U.S. Senate could not muster the 60 votes that would have allowed debate and a vote on the USA FREEDOM Act to proceed. For most privacy and liberty advocates, the USA FREEDOM Act was a first step toward reining in the National Security Agency's (NSA) pervasive spying on innocent American citizens. While this version of the bill was far from perfect, it would …
…rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA), increase the transparency of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) decision—making, provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, create an independent advocate to argue cases before the FISA Court,and impose new and shorter sunsets on controversial surveillance authorities.
The future Senate majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strenuously opposed the bill declaring that passing it would amount to "tying our hands behind our back." McConnell was able to keep 42 Republicans in line so that debate on the bill could not go forward. Among those voting against debate, was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Politico reported:
Opposition was led by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and colleague Sen. Rand Paul, who both voted down the legislation, though for different reasons. McConnell, like many Republicans, voted it down because he believed the reforms went too far, while Paul voted against the bill because it did not go far enough.
Paul said immediately after the vote that he "felt bad" about his vote against the motion.
"They probably needed my vote," he said, opposing Leahy's bill because it would extend the sunset provisions for the laws authorizing surveillance. "It's hard for me to vote for something I object to so much."
Although his single vote would not have been enough to open up debate, Paul should nevertheless have heeded the insight of the developer of radar Robert Alexander Watson-Watt who explained, "Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes." I am no parliamentarian, but it appears that under Senate rules because Paul voted with the prevailing side, he could move to have the Senate reconsider the bill, although it seems unlikely that he will do so.
Paul and the rest of his fellow citizens may well come to rue the day that he allowed the perfect to get in the way of the merely better.
See below Reason TV's interview with NSA whistleblower William Binney.