"Get a warrant!"
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor Sunday afternoon as debate wrapped up to reiterate, very, very loudly, his opposition to renewing the mass data collection authorities of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. He had argue with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over Senate procedures first to get permission to speak. McCain, for his part, argued that the increase in terrorism (he said the Middle East is literally burning) is proof that we need Section 215 "more than ever," despite the lack of evidence that the mass collection under Section 215 actually contributed in any successful efforts to halt terrorist attacks.
Paul noted that "the right to be left alone" is one of our most cherished of rights. And in response to senators like Dan Coats (R-Ind.) saying Americans had been deceived by surveillance opponents, Paul reminded the Senate floor and C-Span viewers, "The head of intelligence agency lied to the American people, and he still works there." And he also reminded the Senate that a federal court has already ruled that Section 215 doesn't actually authorize mass metadata collection about Americans. Paul's position: Want to get records about Americans suspsected of crimes? Get a warrant. Paul is tweeting out some quotes from his speech here.
The Senate is currently in recess after these debates for negotiations. They will return for votes of some sort at 6 p.m. Eastern time. The only real option on the table that can pass tonight and be signed by President Barack Obama immediately is to pass the USA Freedom Act, which adds more restrictions to data surveillance and prohibits the feds from snatching up all records from telecom and Internet companies (More about the Freedom Act here).
I'll update this blog post when action actually happens.
Update (6:25 p.m.): Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) attempted to get two-week extensions for the two other surveillance tools ("lone wolf" and roving wire taps) set to expire. Paul objected and killed the effort, saying that these tools were being used against Americans for reasons other than fighting terrorism.
Update (6:30): After failing, McConnell has called for reconsideration of the USA Freedom Act, which barely failed to pass in the Senate last time. They are now holding a new cloture vote to try to pass it.
Update (6:45): The cloture vote will pass. It's still being tallied, but has passed the 60-vote threshold. (Sen. Rand Paul voted no. He's on the record as saying the USA Freedom Act doesn't go far enough in reforming surveillance.)
Update (7:10): The cloture vote has passed 77-17. Sen. Rand Paul is now speaking, concerned about the details of the USA Freedom Act, worried that bulk data collection will continue, but with the records at the phone companies rather than at the NSA.
Update: Here's The Hill explaining what happens now for both the USA Freedom Act and Section 215 (and other expiring parts of the PATRIOT Act).
Update (7:45): Probably the final update for the evening. The Senate is now allowing speeches about the USA Freedom Act. Sen. Paul just finished a lengthy speech about his concerns with the act. He wants amendments to be an option, which means this legislation will have to go back to the House for approval. So the three surveillance tools that had a sunset deadline tonight are actually going to sunset. Wave goodbye to Section 215 and mass collection of Americans' telephone metadata.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Paul's partner in pushing forward reform and blocking reauthorization of Section 215, is on the floor now continuing the argument against mass data collection.
Here's Sen. Paul's first speech, courtesy of CNN: