In today's New York Times, the newspaper's editorial board essentially endorses Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) efforts to halt domestic spying by preventing the renewal of the most egregious portions of the unconstitutional Patriot Act. From the Times:
He may have annoyed Senate colleagues by seizing the floor for a marathon monologue on Wednesday, but Senator Rand Paul did Americans a singular service by forcing attention to the fact that their civil liberties remain at stake as Congress drifts toward a renewal of the Patriot Act that is likely to do too little to rein in government surveillance programs.
"Are you really willing to give up your liberty for security?" Senator Paul asked in his unexpected, 10-and-a-half-hour quasi-filibuster.
The Kentucky lawmaker candidly linked his floor speech to his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, where he is determined to make more of a public issue of government intrusion into the private lives of Americans after the 9/11 attacks. This is to be welcomed, particularly since so many of his rivals prefer to slide off the issue by endorsing a compromised and faulty renewal of the Patriot Act as it expires on June 1.
"I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged," Mr. Paul declared. He conceded he might not have the votes to prevail, but said he would keep reminding the public of abuses like the government's secret phone-data sweeps of American households that were finally declared illegal this month in federal court.
The focus of the senator's alarm, and rightly so, was a pair of bipartisan renewal bills in both houses that fall short of remedying the problem. The bills would cut back, but not end, the domestic phone-data sweeps that eroded individual rights while accomplishing little in protecting the nation. They avoid the issue of bulk collection of overseas calls, which could include information about Americans. And they fail to create an advocate to represent the public's interest when the government seeks fresh approvals from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has proved far too passive in protecting Americans' civil liberties.
Back in November, I criticized Paul for letting the perfect (Patriot Act sunsetting) get in the way of the merely better (USA FREEDOM Act restrictions on domestic spying) when he voted against letting the latter proceed to a vote in the Senate. I worried that Paul and his fellow citizens would end up with no restrictions on domestic spying at all.
If Paul pulls off Patriot Act sunsetting, I will owe him a big apology and I offer to make amends by buying him a bottle of his favorite Kentucky bourbon (or other spirit). Let's all hope that I have to apologize.