Sen. Rand Paul accomplished something worthwhile when, almost single-handedly, he saw to it that Section 215 of the Patriot Act expired. For that he deserves our heartfelt thanks. But where does the expiration now leave us opponents of indiscriminate government spying on innocent people? Not in such a great place, Sheldon Richman warns.
Shortly after 215 disappeared, the Senate passed the House's watered-down USA Freedom Act, which perhaps puts some meaningful though modest restrictions on the government's collection of bulk communications data. But the civil-liberties community properly has mixed feelings about the Freedom Act. With or without it, however, the government's ability to conduct mass surveillance, unrestrained by the "probable cause" standard in the Constitution, lives on, writes Richman. The NSA and kindred agencies have many more arrows in their quiver than Section 215.