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Senate Votes to Shut Down Rand Paul Filibuster Against Surveillance Act Renewal

Lawmakers will advance legislation that expands the power of the feds to snoop on American citizens.

Rand PaulC-SpanThe Senate joined the House today in rejecting reforms to federal surveillance laws to make sure that the private communications of Americans are not snooped on by officials without warrants.

The Senate voted 60-38 this afternoon in favor of cloture to end debate and to prevent any amendments prior to a formal up-down vote on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017. (Small clarification: Debate will be limited to 30 hours prior to the vote. So Paul and Wyden and others will be able to speak at length, but they won't be able to stop the vote.)

This bill, should it pass, will renew and expand the snooping powers of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments for another six years. Though the law has the world "foreign" in its name, the reality is that it has been used to collect and access communications from Americans, often without warrants and without our knowledge.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have been trying to amend the bill so that it would require the FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) to get warrants in order to query or access any communications records (like emails or phone calls) from American citizens when they get drawn into international surveillance.

In a press conference before the vote today, they were joined by other supporters in the Senate, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who said, "The United States should not be in the business of warrantless searches of dragnet surveillance of American citizens. … Opposing warrantless mass surveillance is not a partisan issue."

Today's vote means reforms to provide stronger Fourth Amendment protections from unwarranted searches will not happen and a filibuster can't actually stop the scheduled vote. The USA RIGHTS Act is essentially dead, unless the full vote fails. (Spoiler: Since the renewal bill survived a cloture vote, it won't fail.)

So what did the Senate actually vote for in the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017? This bill doesn't just renew Section 702 for six years; it also codifies permission for the FBI to access and use data secretly collected from Americans for a host of domestic federal crimes that have nothing to do with protecting America from foreign threats. It has added some unusually worded warrant requirements that will protect some people—but only when they're actually suspected and are being investigated for criminal activities.

Furthermore the bill will give the NSA permission to attempt to restart what are known as "about" searches, access to communications that merely reference a foreign target, not just communications to and from that target. The NSA voluntarily ended these types of searches once it became clear they were gaining access communications that they had no authority to be viewing. This bill will allow them to attempt to restart it unless Congress acts separately to stop it.

The vote was a nailbiter: They needed exactly 60 votes to end debate and prevent a filibuster. "Credit" for the passage of a bill that strips away a little bit more of Americans' privacy rights goes not just to fearmongering Republicans insisting that adding warrant protections expose us somehow to terror attacks, but to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who cast the final vote to end debate and push the bill forward.

Also worth noting: While Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had been fairly quiet during the public discussion and lead-up to the vote, he voted against cloture, siding with Paul and Wyden.

Below, Paul gave an impassioned speech before the cloture vote that pretty much previewed what he would have been talking about if he had gotten the chance to filibuster:

He has promised more debate this week, but unless something shocking happens, it's over: Six years of expanded domestic surveillance authorized in a law designed to fight foreign terrorism and espionage.

UPDATE: Here's the list of senators who voted the opposite of the rest of their parties, the Democrats that voted to push the surveillance bill forward and the Republicans who voted against it.

Photo Credit: Cspan

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Where is the 4th Amendment while all this is going on?

  • Scott S.||

    Stuck in the rules committee.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    More like the fools committee, am I right?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    No. You are not right.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Last it was seen, ~60 Senators were running a train on it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    And Mabel Walker Willebrandt...

  • Ken Shultz||

    Libertarians who complain about government surveillance but don't use free tools to protect themselves are like people who complain about the rotten returns they get on their investment dollars from social security and then turn around and blow all their retirement savings on gambling in Vegas.

    There are a number of competing VPN services outside of the 14 eyes countries that don't keep server logs and are reasonably priced. I know one that's selling 3 years of unlimited data for $99. Others will let you sign up and use 10 GBs a month--for absolutely free.

    Are you using encrypted email? Why not?

    Are you letting Microsoft and Google scan all your email and the contents of your computer? Why aren't you using some flavor of Linux?

    Protect yourself. Don't rely on the government to protect you.

    Some of you would rather own a gun than depend on the police to get there fast enough to take out an intruder.

    Take the same responsibility to protect yourself from snooping.

  • Tony||

    Can someone revoke this guy's libertarian card already.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't know what's more ridiculous, Tony thinking that taking responsibility for protecting yourself from government snooping is anti-libertarian or Tony thinking that he's in charge of who is and isn't a real libertarian.

  • Tony||

    c) Anyone being as much of an apologist for Trump as Ken

  • Ken Shultz||

    What does Trump have to do with this, exactly?

  • Sevo||

    Tony has misplaced Daddy-issues.

  • DiegoF||

    I didn't know some of that stuff thanks Ken. You should make it a regular feature; I know a lot of us would be grateful.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Some of you would rather own a gun than depend on the police to get there fast enough to take out an intruder.

    Since this is a classic defending-our-rights-from-gov't-violation, a better analogy would be owning a gun rather than depending on neighbors to protect you from the police. But we all know the gov't always has bigger guns.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Well, you get the idea.

    We certainly don't want the government violating anybody's rights, but being a libertarian isn't all about depending on the government to do for us what we can do for ourselves either.

    We should all know as much about the server logs of our VPN and what country they're in and why that's important as we do about . . . the commerce clause, the Second Amendment, or whatever else.

    We're not entirely at the government's mercy on snooping. There are things we can do to protect ourselves from snooping, and the more of us who use free software and services to protect our privacy, the better protected all of us will be--regardless of whether the senate wipes its ass with the Fourth Amendment. That's what I was trying to say.

  • EscherEnigma||

    So not getting a bullet-proof vest is as stupid as wasting money at slot machines, and only people that armor up have a right to complain when their rights are violated.

    Interesting perspective.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I didn't say any of those things.

    We lose credibility on these issues when we don't even bother to avail ourselves of what we can do to protect ourselves--for free.

    Don't expect the government to do things for you that you don't even bother to do for yourself, and don't expect your friends and family to take you seriously about government snooping if you're unwilling to use free software and services to protect yourself either.

    If that seems sinister to you, seek professional help.

    If that makes sense to you (and it should), encrypt your email and sign up for a free VPN service.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Libertarians who complain about government surveillance but don't use free tools to protect themselves are like people who complain about the rotten returns they get on their investment dollars from social security and then turn around and blow all their retirement savings on gambling in Vegas

    While I agree that people should take steps to protect themselves and their digital data, this strikes me as a little like the people who say "if you didn't vote, you shouldn't complain about the government." Bullshit, yes I can, and I can complain about government surveillance regardless of whether I've taken steps to protect myself or not. It's the principle that counts.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Principled non-voting is about not contributing to the legitimacy of the politicians who want to screw you.

    I'm not saying you should carry wood for the people who are building a gallows to hang you with. I'm telling you to learn about and use the tools available to protect yourself.

    Yes, we should still insist that the government respect our Fourth Amendment rights, but when they decide not to do that, that's hardly the end of the ballgame.

    Learn to use Veracrypt. There are companies that will give you 10 GBs of free cloud storage in Switzerland. Your privacy, like your retirement and personal safety, were always your responsibility. That doesn't change because the government steals your income to squander on social security or fails to protect you from criminals. After all, in Libertopia, you'll still be responsible for your own retirement. You'll probably be expected to protect your own safety and property, too.

    Same thing with privacy. In Libertopia, the government may not be involved much in protecting your privacy, and why should it be--especially if you don't care enough about your own privacy to take basic steps to protect yourself? In Libertopia, the government won't be the one violating your privacy rights either, but nothing about that changes the fact that your privacy was, is, and always will be your responsibility.

  • Ken Shultz||

    P.S. You should probably insure your own house against fire, too. If you don't but fire insurance, I'm not sure that's the government's fault--even if they're the ones that burned it down. They're responsible for burning your house down in that example, but they're not responsible for making you buy fire insurance. You're responsible for insuring your own property. You're responsible for protecting your own privacy, too--we are not helpless victims.

  • SIV||

    So "Libertarian-Republican" Jeff Flakey voted for warrant-less domestic spying? No wonder neocuck Matt Welch has a man-crush on the lame-duck Arizona Senator.

  • SIV||

  • DiegoF||

    I'd say that was the point they were beneath being taken seriously but there just have been so many.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I'm sure Senator Arpaio would have voted against...pfttthahahaha.

    Sorry, I just could get through it.

  • Sevo||

    Stormy Dragon|1.16.18 @ 11:24PM|#
    "I'm sure Senator Arpaio would have voted against...pfttthahahaha.
    Sorry, I just could get through it."

    Oh, Stormy, don't let fake humor get in the way of making an ass of yourself again!
    Go ahead, explain what Arpaio has to do with any of the conversation; I love laughing at you.

  • gormadoc||

    Arpaio is running for Flake's seat... It's not particularly salient but it is marginally relevant.

  • Sevo||

    VERY marginally, since whatever any future outcome, Stormy's claim is simply hypothetical BS.

  • DiegoF||

    Fuck Jeff Flake. Never liked the guy. Some people just get under your skin. When I see him I almost have to resist the urge to rearrange his...his...bhahahaha! I can't...I can't say it, guys! I can't even keep it together while typing it.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Flake seems somewhat reasonable and principled (for a Republican).

  • Jerryskids||

    The bipartisanship here in expanding the power of the state regardless of whether it's Hitler or Stalin in power shows pretty clearly there's just the one party in charge.

  • SIV||

    Doug Jones(D-AL) voted for it. Judge Roy Moore would have voted against it.

  • Tony||

    He would have done whatever Trump told him to do, just as he pledged. And then he would have molested a little girl.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    After he molested the little girl, however, he would have prayed on it, and basked in spiritual forgiveness, and found a Biblical passage that justified all of it. And the evangelicals would have swallowed it, the Trump fans would have appeased it, and his bigotry would remain unchanged.

  • ace_m82||

    basked in spiritual forgiveness

    No, he wouldn't have. He may have imagined it...

    found a Biblical passage that justified all of it

    No, he wouldn't have. There is no such passage.

    (The rest of what you say is either true or true enough that I won't argue with it.)

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I highly doubt it. He's a run of the mill big government conservative.

  • SIV||

    Jeff Flake you mean.

  • DenverJ||

    Blatantly unconstitutional. But, the court will never hear it, because the FBI, etc. will use the intel to find another way to get the same info, i.e. parallel construction. The courts, in order to keep the legal profession sacrosanct from the pleebs, have determined that you have to show standing, so no one will be able to challenge this tyranny on fourth amendment grounds.
    (I actually had a court reject a habeas corpus petition I had filed for a jailed friend, because I wasn't the one in jail or his lawyer, which, to me at least, seems to negate the whole idea of habeas corpus.)

  • DenverJ||

    Blatantly unconstitutional. But, the court will never hear it, because the FBI, etc. will use the intel to find another way to get the same info, i.e. parallel construction. The courts, in order to keep the legal profession sacrosanct from the pleebs, have determined that you have to show standing, so no one will be able to challenge this tyranny on fourth amendment grounds.
    (I actually had a court reject a habeas corpus petition I had filed for a jailed friend, because I wasn't the one in jail or his lawyer, which, to me at least, seems to negate the whole idea of habeas corpus.)

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The way to curb the authoritarians who wish to expand government surveillance and secrecy is to elect more Democrats and fewer Republicans.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Good one!

  • Tony||

    It is what the vote tally suggests.

  • DesigNate||

    So 50% of senate Democrats voted for this, and 35% of house Democrats voted for it. Both numbers allow the bill to pass instead of killing it dead, and the democrats are completely blameless in the whole thing?

    That is a major feat of fucking logic Tony.

  • Tony||

    Yes I said completely blameless that's totally what I said.

  • Sevo||

    "Yes I said completely blameless that's totally what I said."
    You got lucky someone called you on what you didn't say.
    Now let's get honest:
    "It is what the vote tally suggests."
    The vote tally says D's went for spying more than R's, you slimy piece of shit.
    NOW do we have it right?

  • Tony||

    No it doesn't, you goddamn idiot.

  • EscherEnigma||

    The vote tally says D's went for spying more than R's, you slimy piece of shit.
    NOW do we have it right?


    No. You're entirely wrong.

    Even if we take the cloture vote as the vote on the bill itself, it was 60-38 in favor of cloture. Of those 60 "for" votes, 18 were democrats, 42 were Republicans. Of the 38 "against" votes, 8 were Republicans, 30 were Democrats.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The vote tally says D's went for spying more than R's, you slimy piece of shit.
    NOW do we have it right?

    Not really, no.

    19/48 D Senators voted for cloture. That's ~39.6% voting to renew and expand gov. surveillance.

    Meanwhile, 41/52 R Senators voted for cloture. That's ~78.8% of them voting to renew and expand gov. surveillance, so the numbers seem to suggest that Dems are slightly less awful than Repubs on mass surveillance.

    You are right that Tony is a slimy piece of shit, though.

  • EscherEnigma||

    @Cynical Asshole
    Just wanted to note, use Cynical Asshole's numbers, not mine. I miscounted the Ds which skewed by numbers by one.

  • DesigNate||

    Yet you repeatedly whined about anyone holding the House Dems responsible, pointing out that it was the asshole republicans who put this shitty bill up. And while the republicans certainly deserve blame for introducing the bill in the first place, you don't get to have the deciding votes in both chambers and pretend that it's all republicans faults.

    It would just be nice if you could admit when they're both being shitty, like a principled human being.

  • Tony||

    They were both being shitty but not equally. We can say that definitively since there are fucking numbers.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Democrats are not blameless. They merely are much better than Republicans.

    Unless you are a backward, superstitious, diffusely intolerant, authoritarian, right-wing, stale-thinking, faux libertarian, in which circumstance you probably like Republicans.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    "It is what the vote tally suggests."

    Except when the Democrats had majorities in both chambers of Congress and control of the White House, FISA kept getting reauthorized without the protections you seem to think Democrats would be in favor of. Sort of punches a giant hole in your assertion, doesn't it?

  • rudehost||

    "It is what the vote tally suggests."

    No the vote tally suggests there is a republican president. Note democrats only expanded these powers when the light bringer was in charge. If they had any interest in rolling them back they would have done it then.

  • EscherEnigma||

    You're not entirely wrong. But the answer isn't then "vote Republican", it's "vote for divided government". So since we have a Republican president, vote Democrat house/senate. When we have a Democrat president, vote Republican house/senate.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    They would have to be the party in power before I think you could take the suggestion seriously.

    Their almost certainly votes cast as a party protest on the Democrat side and votes cast for party support on the Republican side.

    The Democrats had a lot of opportunities to kill or cripple government surveillance, and it's still here.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Somebody else chirp in on this if you know more than I do, but my understanding is that being in a five eyes country, the Fourth Amendment might be the least of our concerns:

    "Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been spying on one another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens.[7][8][9][10]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes

    The question isn't just whether the U.S. intelligence services are spying on Americans, which is what this bill would authorize. It's also whether U.S. intelligence services are spying on people in the UK and sharing the information with the UK government in exchange for letting the UK government spy on Americans without a warrant and sharing that information with the U.S. government.

    Hell, I'm not even sure that's technically unconstitutional.

  • DiegoF||

    Fuck that's clever.

    But like you said, where there's remedies, choices available, we have to take responsibility for ourselves as consumers. And I, for one, have always found their burgers dry and overrated anyway.

  • Hank Phillips||

    It's also an old trick. When Brazilians elected a lady candidate who had signed a bill allowing rape victims a morning-after pill, her party's political opponents promptly knew every Swiss bank account number of all her major supporters, and then some. The Kleptocracy makes Tammany Hall look like a Boy Scout troop.

  • vek||

    The whole point is to skirt the constitution and other laws! It's essentially a legal loophole left open by the way domestic privacy laws have been written. Of course we could make it illegal for the US government to share information with foreign powers except in very specific cases, like actual ongoing investigations for real crime... But that would require politicians to not be pieces of shit, and we all know that ain't gonna happen anytime soon!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Escort all the treasonous Congressmen out of Congress.

    The 4th Amendment prohibits any snooping, searching, or seizing on Americans without a warrant based upon probable cause. Nothing short of Congress amending the Constitution will ever give their surveillance laws any legality.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Escort all the treasonous Congressmen out of Congress.

    And then hang them all from lampposts.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The Senate voted 60-38 this afternoon in favor of cloture to end debate and to prevent any amendments prior to a formal up-down vote on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017.

    Christ, what a bunch of assholes.

    I see the list of Dems who voted for cloture mostly consist of the usual nanny-statist shitheel suspects. I guess we can go ahead and add Doug Jones to that list too.

  • Hank Phillips||

    See? Mystical prohibitionist Republicans stab each other in the back, the better to stab us afterward.

  • ||

    Becoming more like his old man every day, thank God

  • prediksifajar||

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