The congressional showdown over Section 215, NSA data collection, and the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act.
Or what I like to call, the herpes of American democracy.
Hey look at the facts, it happened by making a brash decision, it’s something that resurfaces every few years, and we like to delude ourselves in thinking it doesn’t affect our daily lives! Think about it!
But the good news is that there looks to be some hope in regards to Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
What is Section 215 you ask?
Well it’s the section in the Patriot Act that allows the NSA to collect information that is “relevant to an authorized investigation.” Now what that exactly means depends on who you ask, because it’s intentionally made to be vague.
To the US government that meant the ok to collect everyone’s phone records. The existence of this data gathering program was made public by Edward Snowden who in 2013 leaked the existence of this decade old data gathering program by the NSA.
Basically the US Government was like that one friend you have that goes a little overboard when you’re having what he calls “a guy’s night out.” To you that means hanging-out, getting a few beers, and maybe doing something else like going bowling or watching a movie. To him anything less than a party scene from ‘Entourage’ is a complete letdown.
So now it’s established that, much like ‘Entourage’ itself, both Gary and Section 215 of the Patriot Act are the worst, we can finally see where this national security discussion stands.
Well a couple of days ago, the House passed a bill called the USA Freedom Act. The bill’s purpose is to greatly reduce the NSA’s ability to collect data on Americans and would require greater transparency from them if the bill were to pass. Currently it overwhelming passed the House – 338-88 in favor – and awaits a vote in the Senate where it awaits this guy…
That is our old friend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is seen here in what I can only assume to be in a room full of Mitch McConnell impersonators at their annual convention!
Sen. McConnell – along with other elected officials – currently oppose the USA Freedom Act and has been championing their own piece of legislation (S.1357) that would extend the Patriot Act for another two months, allowing the NSA to continue collecting data till then. Sen. McConnell, along with other surveillance hawks, has been pushing S.1357 due to the expiration date on parts of the Patriot Act happening on June 1.
If you’re a surveillance hawk like Sen. McConnell, then you’re put in an interesting predicament. Based on the bi-partisan support of the USA Freedom Act, the House looks to have no interest in a Patriot Act extension, but that isn’t even your biggest concern.
Enter this guy…
That is Kentucky Senator and presidential hopeful Rand Paul and just like his business-on-the-top/party-on-the-bottom attire suggests, he doesn’t give a fuck when it comes to compromise! That would be because a recent federal appeals court ruling found the NSA phone collection program to be illegal. Using that as a backdrop, many groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) feel even the USA Freedom Act doesn’t go far enough! They believe the Patriot Act provisions should just lapse after June 1. Sen. Paul even told the Washington Post that he would “do everything in his power” to block the bill. So how badly does Sen. Paul oppose this bill?
Well, Sen. Rand Paul did the most Rand Paul thing possible.
Yup, he decided to filibuster.
Give it to Sen. Paul, he stood there for ten hours (!!) and filibustered the hell out of that bill! What’s crazier is that this is a shorter filibuster, than the one he had previously done about the Obama administration’s drone program was 13 hours long!
But then flipped his stance because only supporting killer drones can get you into the White House apparently…
I have to say, I don’t think I love anything as much as Sen. Paul loves to filibuster. We should all hope to find something in our lives as much as Sen. Paul loves the filibuster.
Speaking of the Obama administration, what’s their take on all of this? As a senator, Barack Obama condemned the Patriot Act even going as far as making a speech about it on the Senate Floor stating that the US could secure itself against terrorist attacks while preserving individual liberty.
And then well, he became president.
In 2011 the Obama administration signed a bill that reauthorized key elements of the Patriot Act. They still claim that the renewal for the Patriot Act is needed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks, but most experts would argue that to not be true.
But the most mind-blowing aspect in all of this?
The recent introduction of Sen. McConnell’s S.1357 bill puts him on the same side as President Obama when it comes to this national debate! Sen. McConnell and President Obama basically never agree on anything, whether it is politics, basic life philosophy, or even the true meaning of happiness.
This right here signifies how weird – and frankly insane – this debate on national security has gotten. Washington has basically rebooted ‘48 Hours’ with Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell in the leading roles! Where two polar opposites come together as partners to… I guess continue the over-aberrance of government surveillance!
NOW TELL ME YOU WOULDN’T WATCH THE HELL OUT OF THAT MOVIE!
This national security battle royal actually comes to head this weekend. With both the USA Freedom Act and S.1357 being on the docket in the Senate, for political junkies this is as close as you’ll get to a pay-per-view fight.
So after over a decade of covert NSA data gathering and a major leak by someone like Snowden, Congress is finally getting that national security debate that we have wanted. It’s like the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight, only in this case instead of being genuinely pissed that you paid $100 to see a domestic abuser jabbing a Filipino man in the face for 45 minutes, you may get to send that drunken inappropriate text to your ex-girlfriend without the NSA’s judgement!
Finally, those inappropriate messages can be between you, your ex-girlfriend, and to all her friends that she’ll send the morning after.
Just like it was intended!
(Photo Credits: Google Images, Amazon, HBO, Wikipedia, YouTube)