Tag Archives: Section 215

Senate Advances USA Freedom Act, Begins Debate On Amendments

On Tuesday, the United States Senate voted, 83-14, to advance the USA Freedom Act, opening it up to a series of amendments that will be voted on, before a final Senate vote on the bill on Tuesday afternoon.

The USA Freedom Act was created as a substitute for Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expired at 12:01 a.m. on June 1. The controversial Section 215 was used by the National Security Agency to justify its bulk collection of Americans’ data. The campaign against extending the Patriot Act was led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who hailed the expiration of Section 215 as a victory over NSA spying.

Advocates of the USA Freedom Act presented it as a way to curb the powers of the NSA by transferring the bulk collection Americans’ phone records to private companies. However, those in opposition noted 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 House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act with an overwhelming vote of 338-88, the bill failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate on May 22, with a 57-42, following Paul’s 10-hour and 30-minute speech against both the USA Freedom Act, and an extension of the Patriot Act, on May 20.

Following a weeklong recess, in which many lawmakers vowed to lobby for the three votes needed to pass the USA Freedom Act, it was advanced in the Senate on Sunday, with a vote of 77-17.

Now that the USA Freedom Act has advanced in the Senate, the debate on possible amendments to the bill will begin, and if any of those amendments are passed, the bill will then return to the House of Representatives for another vote.

The Guardian reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is presenting three amendments, which he called “common sense” safeguards for “fundamental and necessary counterterrorism tools.”

The first of McConnell’s proposed amendments would “allow for more time of the construction and testing of a system that does not yet exist,” the second would “ensure that the director of national intelligence is in charged with at least ensuring the readiness of the system,” and the third would require telecom companies to notify Congress when they “elect to change their data retention policies.”

While Paul has gained support from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, one of his most prominent allies has been Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a strong opponent of NSA surveillance.

Bloomberg reported that Paul and Wyden will propose nine amendments to the USA Freedom Act that would aid in increasing the visibility and restricting the actions of the intelligence agencies:

  • Require the government to get a warrant before collecting personal information from third parties.
  • Raise the standard for government collection of call records under FISA from “reasonable grounds” to “probable cause.”
  • Limit the government’s ability to use information gathered under intelligence authorities in unrelated criminal cases.
  • Amendment 1443: Make it easier to challenge the use of illegally obtained surveillance information in criminal proceedings.
  • Prohibit the government from requiring hardware and software companies to deliberately weaken encryption and other security features.
  • Clarify the bill’s definition of “specific selection terms.”
  • Require court approval for National Security Letters.
  • Prohibit the government from conducting warrantless reviews of Americans’ email and other communications under section 702 of the Foreign intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Strengthen the bill with additional provisions from previously introduced surveillance reform legislation.

Rand Paul To Force The Expiration of NSA Spy Program

Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) will be spending Sunday forcing the expiration the Patriot Act’s surveillance provisions.

On Saturday, Paul made a declaration to refuse to allow any votes that would extend current law beyond its June 1st expiration, as well any votes for the USA Freedom Act that would reform portions of the Patriot Act.

Paul’s statement is in full below.

“I have fought for several years now to end the illegal spying of the NSA on ordinary Americans. The callous use of general warrants and the disregard for the Bill of Rights must end. Forcing us to choose between our rights and our safety is a false choice and we are better than that as a nation and as a people.

That’s why two years ago, I sued the NSA. It’s why I proposed the Fourth Amendment Protection Act. It’s why I have been seeking for months to have a full, open and honest debate on this issue– a debate that never came.

So last week, seeing proponents of this illegal spying rushing toward a deadline to wholesale renew this unconstitutional power, I filibustered the bill. I spoke for over 10 hours to call attention to the vast expansion of the spy state and the corresponding erosion of our liberties.

Then, last week, I further blocked the extension of these powers and the Senate adjourned for recess rather than stay and debate them.

Tomorrow, we will come back with just hours left before the NSA illegal spying powers expire.

Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies.

But we do not need to give up who we are to defeat them. In fact, we must not.

There has to be another way. We must find it together. So tomorrow,

[bctt tweet=”I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program. @RandPaul”]

I am ready and willing to start the debate on how we fight terrorism without giving up our liberty.

Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over. The tax code and our regulatory burdens are two good examples.

Fighting against unconditional, illegal powers that take away our rights, taken by previous Congresses and administrations is just as important.

I do not do this to obstruct. I do it to build something better, more effective, more lasting, and more cognizant of who we are as Americans.”

Joining the fight against Patriot Act surveillance extension is Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), who has been attending the House of Representatives’ pro forma sessions to block Speaker John Boehner from using low turnout to hold voice votes to extend the legislation’s spying provisions. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) has joined Amash in keeping watch over a mostly empty House floor. “It only takes one of 435 members to be here on the floor of the House to stop something from passing on unanimous consent,” said Massie.