The USA Freedom Act, which passed the House and has stalled temporarily in the Senate due to Sen. Rand Paul's pushback, is at least a slight improvement over The Patriot Act even if it's not as good as just letting the Patriot Act expire.
More important, however, is what the intra-party fight among the new breed of Republicans—Tea Party faves Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Paul, and Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are on different sides of the USA Freedom Act—symbolizes.
As I argue in my latest Daily Beast column, such arguments are redolent of Nixon going to China and the Democratic Party leading the final push to end segregation in the 1960s. While it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, The Patriot Act and unequivocal support for the surveillance state it helped to create is rightly recognized as a Republican law and mind-set. So…
…it falls to Republicans to clean up the mess they did so much to create. To their credit, they are doing exactly that, even as they fight among themselves over the details. On the one hand, you've got wracked-with-guilt characters such as James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin representative who introduced the Patriot Act in 2001 and who's been denouncing the way the government has implemented the legislation. In 2013, only after Edward Snowden's revelations and a long history of protecting the Patriot Act from any sort of congressional criticism, Sensenbrenner finally flipped and wrote Attorney General Eric Holder that the National Security Agency's request for Verizon records was "not consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act"….
Mass opposition to a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act is a clear sign that we are coming out of the 9/11-induced fog that allowed for way too much trust being placed in the hands of the government.
We've watched officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations lie to the public about what was going on, and we've seen the FBI itself admit that Section 215 has proved incredibly useless in fighting terrorism and that the "lone wolf" provision has never been used.
The Patriot Act should never have passed in the first place, so it's good to see the Republicans openly discussing how to whittle it down to something that might fit within defensible practice.