The National Security Agency lost its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, at least temporarily. On Sunday night Senator Rand Paul stood in the way of extending the provisions in the Patriot Act used to justify bulk data collection.
The interruption in the collection of Americans’ personal data is only temporary, but Senator Rand Paul likely hopes his previous filibuster and a fiery speech Sunday night will ignite a fire in the hearts and minds of the many Americans who have grown apathetic to the NSA’s civil liberty violations.
The Senate voted 77-17 to move ahead on the House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act, which only last weekend fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. For McConnell, it was a remarkable retreat after objecting ferociously that the House bill would make the bulk phone collections program dangerously unwieldy by requiring the government to search records maintained by phone companies.
“It’s not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it’s now the only realistic way forward,” McConnell said.
The White House backs the House bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement: “The Senate took an important – if late – step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly.”
But the Senate adjourned without final action on the bill after Paul asserted his prerogative under Senate rules to delay a final vote for several days.
“This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? … I’m not going to take it anymore,” Paul declared on the Senate floor, as supporters wearing red “Stand With Rand” T-shirts packed the spectator gallery.
Rand’s speech was awesome and I strongly recommend watching it in its entirety. However, there was one part that really caught my attention. When reading the excerpt below, ask yourself, who is Rand targeting with this speech?
They were dishonest about the program until we caught them. They kept saying over and over again, we’re not doing this we’re not collecting your records. And they were. The head of the intelligence agency lied to the American people and he still works here. We should be upset. We should be marching in the streets and saying he’s gotta go!
Do you know who Rand’s target audience is?
He’s targeting the American public. Rand is not addressing his fellow Senators. They’ve all already been bought and will ultimately end up voting for legislation that effectively allows the bulk collection of American’s personal data to continue. Rand knows he cannot win the legislative battle.
So he has decided to make a stand now by opposing the NSA’s clandestine operations and challenging the American public to make a stand against the NSA. On the floor of the Senate he called for the American public to march in the streets and demand the head of the NSA resign. When’s the last time a high-profile presidential candidate made that plea?
Rand is fully committed to this strategy, there’s no turning back. He has called out the American people, under the guise of a legislative debate. His presidential aspirations and his re-election as a Senator will be hugely influenced by these actions. Only time will tell if laying down the gauntlet on renewal of the Patriot Act was a wise political decision.