After the USA Freedom Act passed in the Senate on Tuesday, 67-32, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addressed the bill’s passage, and shared his thoughts on its impact.
While McConnell opposed the USA Freedom Act, which was created to maintain the NSA surveillance powers that expired with Section 215 of the Patriot Act at 12:01 a.m. on June 1, he was on the opposite end of the debate from his fellow Senator from Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul.
Although both Senators were against the USA Freedom Act, Paul led the campaign to abolish NSA surveillance altogether, and McConnell pushed for a “clean” extension of the Patriot Act.
The National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013. While advocates of the USA Freedom Act presented it as a bill that vindicated Snowden by reforming NSA surveillance, those in opposition noted that the act wouldn’t end the government’s collection; it would only change the channels the government went through to collect Americans’ records.
On the Senate floor, McConnell quoted an article from the Associated Press, which called the passage of the USA Freedom Act a “resounding victory for Edward Snowden.”
“Those who reveal the tactics, sources and methods of our military and intelligence community give playbook to ISIL and al-Qaeda,” said McConnell, who went on to say that not only was the USA Freedom Act a “resounding victory for Edward Snowden,” it was also a “resounding victory for those who plotted against our homeland.”
Although the Washington Post reported in Jan. that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism,” and the NSA’s mass surveillance was recently ruled illegal by a federal appeals court, McConnell defended the program.
“Nobody’s civil liberties are being violated here,” McConnell said, regarding NSA surveillance. “The president’s campaign to destroy the tools used to prevent another terrorist attack have been aided by those seeking to prosecute officers in the intelligence community, diminish our intelligence capabilities, and despicably to leak and reveal classified information, putting our nation further at risk.”
When the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday afternoon, it approved the same version that was previously passed in the House of Representatives, despite the fact that both McConnell and Paul requested amendments to the bill.
A debate was held over possible amendments on Tuesday, and while McConnell struck down the nine amendments presented by Senator Paul and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), he did bring up four amendments of his own, which were all rejected.