USA Freedom Act Likely to Pass the Senate

The U.S. Senate came back for a rare Sunday session to try to prevent the sunsetting of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but there was no way they were going to do that. They’d already voted down the USA Freedom Act, which the House passed by a huge margin, and a short-term extension of the provisions. But it looks like they’re going to try again and pass it.

The Senate advanced legislation 77-17 to reform the National Security Agency on Sunday, but parts of the Patriot Act will nonetheless lapse for a few days amid opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, will not reach President Obama’s desk until after the three measures expire at midnight, meaning that the provisions will expire until the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Obama later this week.

“The Patriot Act will expire tonight,” Paul declared triumphantly from the Senate floor during a rare Sunday evening vote. “It will only be temporary. They will ultimately get their way.”

Obama has supported the measure and had repeatedly urged lawmakers to support it in the days leading up to Sunday’s deadline. The bill needed 60 votes in order to advance.

The USA Freedom Act would reauthorize Section 215, but with at least one important safeguard. The legislation would forbid the NSA from storing all the cell phone metadata being collected. Instead, the telecoms themselves would hold that data on their own customers. The key, though, is that the NSA would then have to get an individual warrant each time they want to search those databases for a specific person’s metadata. That’s an important safeguard. It doesn’t go nearly far enough, but it’s probably the best we can hope for given how little our elected officials care about the 4th Amendment.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is expected to introduce amendments of his own, which John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted would be approved.

Paul’s opposition will push votes on both those amendments and the final bill back to Tuesday at the earliest, and potentially Wednesday.

The House would then either need to vote on the new bill or hash out the details in a conference committee.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) — an NSA critic — warned senators against adding amendments to the legislation that could potentially weaken the bill in the eyes of its supporters.

“On the House side there’s not support for a more watered down version of the Freedom Act,” he said. “If they want to get something passed through the House they need to make it better not worse.”

The House passed the USA Freedom Act by a better than 3-1 margin, so it was highly unlikely that they were going to accept a short-term extension of Section 215. That’s what forced the Senate to go back and take another stab at the USA Freedom Act, which they will likely now pass. But if they add amendments the House doesn’t like, it would take a couple weeks or more to work that out in conference committee. In the meantime, the NSA has to shut down all of their data mining operations being justified by Section 215. Indeed, they’ve already shut them down (or so the White House has said).

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    “The Patriot Act will expire tonight,” Paul declared triumphantly from the Senate floor during a rare Sunday evening vote. “It will only be temporary. They will ultimately get their way.”

    Rather sad example of “triumphantly”…

  • colnago80

    But if they add amendments the House doesn’t like, it would take a couple weeks or more to work that out in conference committee. In the meantime, the NSA has to shut down all of their data mining operations being justified by Section 215. Indeed, they’ve already shut them down (or so the White House has said).

    For anyone who believes that the NSA has shut down their data mining operations, I have a nice bridge over the Potomac I’d like to sell them.

  • Synfandel

    Is there a law that requires that all bills have ironic names?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Yes, it’s called the Name All Laws According To Their True Purpose Act.

  • hunter

    Synfandel: Only since 9/11.

  • Artor

    ” Indeed, they’ve already shut them down (or so the White House has said).”

    Yeah, that’s really comforting. I’m so glad we never hear of complete bullshit coming from the White House, or I might think that was a lie or something.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    The legislation would forbid the NSA from storing all the cell phone metadata being collected. Instead, the telecoms themselves would hold that data on their own customers.

    Luckily, the NSA has a tap on those lines.

     

    The key, though, is that the NSA would then have to get an individual warrant each time they want to search those databases for a specific person’s metadata. That’s an important safeguard.

    “Odd. This individual warrant specifies ‘Everybody’.”

    “Yes, and there’s an addendum stapled to it for a big, fat government contract.’

    “Everybody it is, then!”

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Indeed, they’ve already shut them down

    Hahahah.

    And they pretend that the US mail doesn’t share its “metadata”

    And they continue to pretend that it’s “metadata” which is bullshit. What they have done is re-defined “look at” and “search” to mean “collecting but not having a human look at is not ‘looking at'” If you think about it for a few seconds, there is practically no value to having a collection system that only keeps metadata unless you also have the underlying data. What they are doing is sweeping it all up, and keeping it as long as they want to. The search results are the “metadata” (There is no distinction between metadata in the envelope and metadata extracted from the message payload)

  • lanir

    So… You guys know the actual law side of things considerably better than I do. I’m more on the tech side of things. So this on the surface reminds me of one simple aspect of the Snowden documents that were released. Remember that little smiley face on the document outlining how the NSA was sneaking right past Google’s encryption to get info by going in the front door and having a working arrangement and then siphoning off everything through the backdoor anyway? Yeah, that’s a thing.

    I’d really like to know whether there’s any direct provision in the law explicitly prohibiting them from acquiring this information by having the GCHQ hack in instead or some other roundabout means. Without such provisions it’s simply a minor speedbump and that’s assuming there’s even anyone awake at the wheel in that rubber stamp factory they call the FISC court.