A struggle of some consequence is now being waged in Congress to keep on life support the NSA’s massive spying on the American people. And in this struggle the progressives (aka liberals) are engaged in a massive betrayal of all they profess to believe in. Instead too many of them are scurrying about attacking Rand Paul, the libertarian, anti-interventionist, Republican Senator who is leading the charge against the Bush/Obama spying program. Among other things Senator Paul has engaged in a filibuster to stop this nefarious program. So far he has been successful.
Let us try to make the crucial events in Congress as simple and crystal clear as possible. There are two pieces of legislation that were before the Senate last week.
The first is the Patriot Act itself, Section 215 of which, in the government’s secret interpretation, allowed the NSA to vacuum up data on virtually every piece of electronic communication by every American and indeed everyone on the planet. This secret interpretation and use of 215 came to light only when the heroic Edward Snowden blew his whistle. Such massive spying has already been declared illegal by a recent opinion of the Second Circuit Court, although the NSA ignores this ruling. The Patriot Act is due to expire on June 1, and Obama is desperate to keep its essentials alive. Since the government has not been able to produce any convincing data that such surveillance has protected the U.S., one might well ask why Obama is so frantic, almost hysterical, to keep it alive. Why indeed.
The second is a “reform” of the Patriot Act, called the “USA Freedom Act,” proposed by Obama and company. However, the USA Freedom Act is not different in its essentials from the original Patriot Act. One “difference” is that the telephone and internet companies will hold the data rather than the government itself, and then the government will vacuum it up from those companies. A distinction without a difference, to be sure. Here is what the ACLU has to say about the “USA Freedom Act”:
“This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision—the material-support provision—would represent a significant step backwards,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. “The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.”
Jaffer wants Congress to let Section 215 sunset completely, a common sentiment among privacy activists who are USA Freedom Act skeptics—they’d rather let it expire and wait for a better reform package than endorse something half-baked.
Now we get to the meat of the politics and the possible victory over the Stasi State that we have within reach. Last week both these bills came up for a vote in the Senate. Rand Paul filibustered, a filibuster denigrated by many “progressives” as just a “long speech.” Nevertheless, it was enough that cloture had to be invoked to get a vote on the bills. That means 60 votes were needed to keep the legislation alive. First came the vote for the USA Freedom Act. There were less than 60 votes to keep it alive. Down it went. Then came the vote to continue the good ol’ Patriot Act and its atrocious Section 215. Again there were less than the 60 votes needed to keep it alive. Down it went. So as things stand now, Section 215 will be history as of June 1!