On Monday, 2016 Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced that he plans to fight back against the renewal of section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is used by the National Security Agency to justify its bulk collection of Americans’ data. Section 215 is set to expire on June 1.
During an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Paul said that he plans to “lead the charge” in the fight against the NSA’s unlawful data collection.
[pull_quote_center]“I’m going to lead the charge in the next couple of weeks as the Patriot Act comes forward,” Paul said. “We will be filibustering. We will be trying to stop it. We are not going to let them run over us. And we are going to demand amendments and we are going to make sure the American people know that some of us at least are opposed to unlawful searches.“[/pull_quote_center]
The Huffington Post noted that Congress must renew the Patriot Act by May 22, and that it is not clear whether Paul plans “to vote to block reauthorizing the surveillance law, or whether he intends to mount a traditional ‘talking’ filibuster” on the Senate floor.
On Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized” and is illegal.
Paul has been very adamant in taking a stand against the NSA’s unconstitutional collection of Americans’ data. At a speech in New Hampshire on April 8, Paul condemned the NSA’s program and vowed that if elected as President in 2016, he would end it “on day one.”
“Warrantless searches of Americans phone records and computer records, are un-American and a threat to our civil liberties,” Paul said. “I say that your phone records are yours. I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business. The president created this vast dragnet by executive order. As President, on day one I will immediately end this unconstitutional program.”
Paul is not the only Senator speaking out against the renewal of the Patriot Act. On Sunday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told MSNBC that if the renewal includes the continued collection of Americans’ phone records, he also plans to filibuster.
“The question will be, as you know, the Senate Republican leadership has been looking at a variety of ways to move forward to keep the bulk phone records collection program going,” Wyden said. “What usually happens is they say, ‘Let’s just have a short-term extension of it.’ I’m tired of extending a bad law. If they come back with that effort to basically extend this for a short term without major reforms like ending the collection of phone records, I do intend to filibuster.”
In contrast from both Paul and Wyden, rumored 2016 Presidential Candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has defended the NSA’s bulk data collection on multiple occasions, calling the program hugely important in the United States’ long-term battle against terrorism. Bush has also said that the enhancement of the NSA’s spying program under President Obama has been the best part of the Obama administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced a bill on April 21 that would reauthorize the Patriot Act through 2020, without any amendments.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to McConnell on the floor of the Senate, on Monday, and said that “extending an illegal program for five and a half years” was not sensible.
“My friend, the Majority Leader, keeps talking about extending the program for five and a half years,” Reid sad. “How can you reauthorize something that’s illegal? You can’t. You shouldn’t.”