The United States Senate blocked an outright two-month extension of the Patriot Act early Saturday morning, as three sections of the Act are set to expire at the end of the month. One of those sections, the controversial Section 215, is used by the National Security Agency to justify its bulk collection of Americans’ data.
In addition to blocking an extension of the Patriot Act with no changes, the Senate also did not pass the USA Freedom Act, which was passed in the US House of Representatives 338-88.
While those in support of the USA Freedom Act presented it as a bill that would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ data, those opposing the bill said that it wouldn’t end the collection; it would only change the channels the government went through to collect Americans’ records.
The USA Freedom Act needed to reach a 60-vote threshold in the Senate in order to pass. It failed by a 57-42 vote on Friday.
On Wednesday, GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the floor of the Senate for 10 hours and 30 minutes to filibuster the renewal of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Paul led the opposition against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had said that he intended to set up a final showdown on the NSA’s bulk-data programs by “putting pressure on civil liberties advocates to muster the 60 votes needed to end the snooping,” in the hopes that the senators would end up having to accept an extension of the current Patriot Act.
[quote_center]“We have entered into a momentous debate,” Paul said. “This is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all of the records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant. Our forefathers would be aghast. One of the things they despised was general warrants.”[/quote_center]
Although McConnell tried to extend the Patriot Act to June 8, to June 5, to June 3, and to June 2, Paul continued to object, and no extension was agreed upon.
According to a memo from the Department of Justice, because no renewal of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was passed, the NSA will now “begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata program in anticipation of a possible sunset in order to ensure that it does not engage in any unauthorized collection or use of the metadata.”
The Senate has adjourned for a week-long recess for the Memorial Day holiday, and will not return until May 31, the day Section 215 of the Patriot Act is officially set to expire.