UPDATE: June 1st 12:01 a.m. Eastern – Section 215 of the Patriot Act has expired.
UPDATE: 8 p.m. Eastern – The Senate voted, 77-17, to advance the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would change the channels through which the U.S. Government collects Americans’ data. Sunday’s vote sets up the bill for a final vote this week, and if passed, the bill would then be sent to President Obama to sign.
While the Senate waits for a final vote on the USA Freedom Act, three sections of the Patriot Act will expire on June 1, including the controversial Section 215, which is used by the National Security Agency to justify its collection of Americans’ phone records.
Following the vote to advance the USA Freedom Act, Sen. Rand Paul, who has led the campaign for abolishing the Patriot Act altogether, took to the Senate Floor, and said that although Section 215 will expire tonight, it will “only be temporary,” and those in favor of NSA surveillance will “ultimately get their way.”
“I think the majority of the American people do believe the government has gone too far,” Paul said. “In Washington, it’s the opposite, but I think Washington is out of touch. There will be 80 votes to say ‘continue the Patriot Act,’ maybe more, but if you go into the general public, if you get outside of the beltway and visit America, it’s completely the opposite.”
Paul also addressed comments from Senators such as Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who have equated a possible expiration of the Patriot Act to a “win” for terrorists around the world:
[pull_quote_center]The people who argue that the world will end, and we’ll be overrun by Jihadists tonight are trying to use fear. They want to take just a little bit of your liberty, and they get it by making you afraid. . . . They tell you if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. It’s a far cry from the standard we are founded upon: innocent until proven guilty.[/pull_quote_center]
6:20 p.m. Eastern – On Sunday, the United States Senate reconvened after a weeklong recess, for a last-minute debate on the future of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program.
With the possible expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act approaching on June 1, the USA Freedom Act was created, and presented as a way to curb Section 215 by transferring the bulk collection Americans’ phone records to private companies. While advocates for the USA Freedom Act claim that it will end the NSA’s bulk data collection, those in opposition say that it wouldn’t end the government’s collection; it would only change the channels the government went through to collect Americans’ records.
While the USA Freedom Act was passed in the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 338-88, it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate, with a 57-42 vote on Friday.
Click here to watch the live feed from the Senate floor.
GOP Presidential candidate and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who led the charge to block a direct extension of the Patriot Act, vowed to force the expiration of the NSA’s massive surveillance program altogether.
On the Senate floor on Sunday, Paul was noted that the NSA’s massive surveillance program has been ruled illegal by a federal appeals court.
“We’re not collecting the information of spies,” Paul said. “We’re not collecting the information of terrorists. We’re collecting the information of Americans, all of the time.”