We're about eight hours in on the filibuster launched by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore). Matt Welch hit several of the highlights of the filibuster thus far here.
But Paul and Wyden do have a specific aim in mind beyond just keeping Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act from being renewed as is. What they want, Paul has explained during the filibuster, is for when the Senate takes up the USA Freedom Act, to permit amendments to make the act stronger.
I am not going to go over all the details of the USA Freedom Act twice in one day, so please read my piece about it earlier today if you're unclear. I do not promise that you'll actually be more clear about it after reading. That's part of the problem. Privacy advocates see many gaps in what the USA Freedom Act offers by way of surveillance reform. But when the USA Freedom Act was passed in the House, amendments were not permitted at all. What Paul and Wyden want is for Senate leadership to allow for amendments. "My concern with the USA Freedom Act is that it still may allow for a bulk collection," he said.
Also, here's where confusion about what the USA Freedom Act does and doesn't allow comes in. The reforms require more specific search terms and requires the identification of a specific person in order to prevent mass collection of huge numbers of innocent people's data and records. The definition of "person" in this context does include corporations. Paul has said several times in the filibuster that he's afraid the NSA will just plug in "Verizon" as a specific term and just collect bulk data again. Business as usual.
BUT! The USA Freedom Act specifically forbids using a telecom company or Internet service provider as a search term.
BUT! The USA Freedom Act then immediately makes an exception, and that is if the telecom company or Internet service provider is itself the subject of an investigation.
So, Paul is wrong on the basic facts here. The USA Freedom Act does not permit just naming "Verizon" as the target and going right back to bulk data collection. However, given how much the NSA has bent the language of Section 215 already just to get us where we are right now, I would not consider it to be paranoid to think that the NSA would somehow try to declare that Verizon actually is the target of an investigation just to keep it all going