Surveillance

Sen. McConnell Relents on Bill to Reduce NSA Snooping

Senate will vote on USA Freedom Act

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"Fine. I surrender."
Credit: Credit: Gage Skidmore / photo on flick

As we've previously noted, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to keep the PATRIOT Act completely intact and reauthorize it all, including Section 215, the part that has been used by the National Security Agency (NSA) as justification for collecting phone metadata from pretty much all Americans for years.

Privacy supporters on both the left and the right had different plans. Instead of simply reauthorizing Section 215, last week the House voted in favor of the USA Freedom Act, which reduces the scope of data collection, requiring more specific search terms, and adds some transparency to the whole process.

McConnell had been resisting the USA Freedom Act, but he also had a ticking clock. Section 215 expires entirely on June 1. He had to get something through. Also: There's the issue that a federal court just ruled that Section 215 didn't even authorize mass phone metadata collection in the first place.

So, McConnell is relenting and will allow the USA Freedom Act to make it to the Senate floor and be voted on this week. From Politico:

House leaders said this week the Senate must pass their legislation to keep surveillance programs from expiring. And though McConnell opposes the House bill, he insisted an expiration is not on the table.

"It's my view that letting it expire is not a responsible thing to do," McConnell said.

Stay tuned. 

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  1. Heads up, Reason commentariat:

    I have heard your frustration that it’s hard to grasp entirely what the USA Freedom Act actually does. Even tech privacy experts don’t agree, and that’s part of the problem. I’ve been interviewing people on the act and actually have a phone interview with a House member who voted for the act this afternoon. I’ll be writing up something longer tomorrow.

    But don’t expect it to ease your concerns. Part of the problem is that it’s almost impossible to be completely certain what will happen once it passes. I’ll explain.

    1. We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it! But thanks for update Scott, this is good work.

    2. “Part of the problem is that it’s almost impossible to be completely certain what will happen once it passes.”

      Allow me a chance to take a stab: Americans will lose more of our God-given liberty as Leviathan’s tentacles constrict ever-tighter around our necks. Just like after any other legislation with a title like “USA Freedom Act”

      1. With a title like “USA Freedom Act” I fully expect in includes a signed blank death warrant for every American on the planet.

        1. Uh, the current president kinda already proved you don’t need an Act for that.

          1. Granted, but if they don’t codify it into law, how will future generations know it was done for the greater glory of the Motherland?

            1. You can do that with secret laws, only revealed to the public at the appropriate time.

              1. On a need-to-know basis, via Hellfire missile.

                1. The could engrave it on the front, and save time all around. Who said government wasn’t efficient?

            2. Pretty sure it’s the Fatherland that we are headed too, but hey, you may be right. I guess it doesn’t really matter, it’s all the Homeland.

              1. +1 patriarchy

    3. Well there’s no way it will pass then. No member of Congress would be irresponsible enough to vote for a bill without fully understanding the legal language and all of the implications of its passage.

      1. Really, how could anyone doubt that deep and profoundly immutable truth?

    4. WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM, SCOTT

      Something something cocktail parties

    5. It enables the NSA to do whatever they want to the people, because FYTW.

      1. I think it simply says FYTW. Shortest bill in history.

    6. it’s almost impossible to be completely certain what will happen once it passes.

      Bullshit. The NSA will continue to violate the fourth amendment, with or without an unconstitutional fig leaf like the “PATRIOT” act or the “USA FREEDOM” act in place. You know this. Why are you pretending otherwise?

      -jcr

      1. Exactly. The only thing that will stop them is to completely disband the organization, bull doze and set fire to the massive server bank in Utah, execute the upper management for treason, and then display their corpses in gibbets along Constitution Avenue to remind the rest of the little fascists who works for whom.
        Repeat every 50 yrs.

        1. While I really like you plan the Constitution is pretty clear about the definition of treason, and (unfortunately) the NSA is not guilty of such.

          Still, it’s a wonderful thought.

          1. Thank you for the compliment on my decorating plans. As for the definition of treason: I think I could make a case that, by treating the people of these United States as enemies, and that by violating our rights, they are guilty of “levying war against” the United States. They were, in fact, attempting to conduct a coup, dating that they could do whatever they wanted, while circumventing the written law and the will of the people, while treating those same people as potential enemies of the State that they were trying to seize control of.

          2. “While I really like you plan the Constitution is pretty clear about the definition of treason”

            The constitution is pretty clear about a lot of things but here we are. I am comfortable breaking a few NSA eggs since we are already making that “the constitution changes as convenient” omelette

    7. Thank you Scott. I’m suspicious of the whole thing, considering we already have a law that says the government can’t do any of this stuff. This law seems highly technical and feels to me like a battery of government lawyers will find all the loopholes and circumvent whatever this act does.

      1. I’m always troubled by laws that correct things that are already illegal. Do they end up quasi-endorsing illegal stuff going on that isn’t corrected?

        1. I see it as the equivalent of double-secret probation.

          1. President Wormer is a reality.

            1. I banged Dean Wormer’s wife, so we’re even

    8. Part of the problem is that it’s almost impossible to be completely certain what will happen once it passes.

      Scott, we’re already aware that most legislation is of the form: “The Secretary shall appoint a panel which shall create the operative rules and regulations.”

    9. Scott, we would never turn on you. Soave is the lightning rod this week.

      1. +1 anti-robo suavay

    10. Rest assured, Senators Alexander and Corker (R-TN, both) will vote which ever way Obama wants them to vote.

      1. Sadly so true. Alexander is a sheep in wolves clothing and Corker is smart enough to know it is the wrong thing to do, but political enough to do it anyway.

    11. Every time I see your name,I see it as Shakleford, Dale’s fake identity on King Of The Hill. But that’s not your fault. Keep up the good job.

  2. Just look what the Senator from Kentucky did . . .. no, not Mitch, that OTHER guy.

    Hmmmmm – just with the threat of a filibuster

    1. I guess we know the USA Freedom Act doesn’t deal with server squirrels.

    2. I am beginning to think we would be better served if he notched a couple more terms in the senate while he is young and has the energy to filibuster this kinda shit.

  3. Just look what the Senator from Kentucky did . . .. no, not Mitch, that OTHER guy.

    Hmmmmm – just with the threat of a filibuster

  4. So, it’s post one, get one free day again, is it Reason?

    Note to Reason IT:

    The room wants an edit function and no more doubles.

    1. Collapsible threads would be the bomb. Just sayin’.

      1. And how hard would it be to place the name of whom you’re replying to in the header?

        THIS IS THE WORST CHAT ROOM EVER!

    2. The room wants an edit function

      Imagine Tulpa with an edit function…

      Hows bouts an edit function that allows you to also click to view the original post?

      1. That deprives us of the fun inherent in taking screencaps and coming back all, “BAM!”

        Why do you hate us?

        1. He hates us for our freedumz, Hamster. For our FREEDUMZ!

      2. Can we have one that lets us edit other people’s posts? Just for grammar, of course.

        1. That is, like, sooo sexist! Grandpa wants to edit other people’s posts, too.

    3. We thought you were filibustering the thread.

      1. Winner, winner!

        And you know what THAT means . . .

        1. Hitler?

        2. Free Mexican butt sex and pot. It’s Tuesday.

  5. Didn’t Lindsey Graham just say he doesn’t care about the law or a warrant or whatever – he can drone us for our thoughts?

    He’s pretty damn good if he knows what the hell I’m thinking, actually.

    So who needs the NSA or the Patriot Act? Magic Lindsey is a mind reader.

    All 330 million of them.

    1. It’s rather simple really, America is a vipers nest of sedition and heresy.. according to little Lindsey. It’s virtually impossible for him to ignore stench of treason emanating from our very pores. “Drop the bomb… exterminate them all!” is how sees it, the NSA our phone data, to tell him who needs to get it first..

  6. Didn’t Lindsey Graham just say he doesn’t care about the law or a warrant or whatever – he can drone us for our thoughts?

    He’s pretty damn good if he knows what the hell I’m thinking, actually.

    So who needs the NSA or the Patriot Act? Magic Lindsey is a mind reader.

    All 330 million of them.

    1. That goddamned sissy chickenhawk doesn’t need the NSA to know what I’m thinking.

      -jcr

      1. I’m kind of hoping to bump into him so I can share.

        1. You want to share something with Lindsey Graham?

          1. Yeah, my teddy grahams.

  7. Scott – damn it! This isn’t funny anymore!

  8. I think we’re well past the point of a corrective law. They need to launch into a major investigation and fucking rework the entire intelligence apparatus. Looks like this needs to happen every ten years or so, just to avoid the spooks fucking up everything.

    1. Why limit it to intelligence? All laws sunset after 10 years.

      We can thank Christ that the Patriot Act had a sunset clause. At the very least they need to defend the piece of shit every few years and the statists must stand up and be counted as such.

      1. Of course, I think a whole lot more than this is needed, but I was talking specifically about the rampant abuses of our rights by the intelligence agencies. I was also specifically thinking about the Church Committee. Time for another one.

        1. Wasn’t the Church Committee where the FISA courts came from in the first place? And you see how that turned out – any panel designed to act as a check on goverment abuse gets co-opted and becomes an enabler of abuse. How many citizen review board iterations has the NYPD been through, for example, and how much control does anybody have over the NYPD?

  9. At least we see the value of automatically expiring laws.

  10. Is his Chinese wife going to be happy with him when he gets home? I think not!

    1. So right. She worked for Bush Jr. too. Double whammy! She may as well be the author of TPP on top of her association with American politicians who belong in insane asylums.

  11. Will somebody tell me again why Rand Paul supported McConnell?

    1. Orange participation ribbon..

      1. Turtle and the Hair?

        1. Brilliant!

    2. http://www.nationaljournal.com…..n-20141107

      McConnell is also helping him get the rules changed in Kentucky so he can run for both the U.S. Senate and the Presidency at the same time.

    3. Because Rand Paul is human, and makes mistakes. I think he’s the best hope of the Republic, right now; but if he somehow gets elected President, I fully expect him to make mistakes that piss me off, because he’s not Jesus or me. But I’d still offer him the job.

  12. USA Freedom Act – All government both fed state and local will be abolished. All are free.

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