"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Senate Republicans block USA Freedom Act surveillance reform bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may have dealt the legislation a fatal blow when he used a floor speech on Tuesday to argue that passage of the legislation would hurt U.S. efforts to stop terrorist groups. “At a minimum, we shouldn’t be doing anything to make the situation worse,” McConnell said ahead of the vote
(The Hill.com)

The "Small Government" GOP
  • Senators, mostly Republicans, voted to beat back the USA Freedom Act.
  • Both parties have dirty hands on this, but it appears that many Republicans have never read the Bill of Rights.

Nearly 18 months after Edward Snowden’s disclosures upended the secret world of US surveillance, the US Senate has rejected the most politically viable effort to rein in the National Security Agency in almost four decades.

The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year that sought to end the NSA’s ongoing daily collection of practically all US phone data, failed to reach a 60-vote threshold to cut off debate and move to passage reports The Guardian.

Senators, mostly Republicans warning of leaving the country exposed to another terrorist attack, voted to beat back the bill, which had been warily backed by the Obama administration, technology giants and most civil libertarian groups.
Senator Rand Paul said the bill
was too weak to support.

It was the denouement to over a year’s worth of political drama, characterized by shifting alliances and a reduction in ambitions for constraining the NSA, even in a post-Snowden Congress.

Although the domestic phone data dragnet has not thwarted any terrorist attacks, in the lead-up to the vote critics savaged the bill as a gift to terrorists.

“God forbid we wake up tomorrow and Isil is in the United States,” said Florida Republican Marco Rubio, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Afterwards, a downcast and impassioned Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Senate, denounced “scare tactics” he said killed the bill.

“Obviously I’m disappointed by tonight’s vote,” Leahy said after the vote, vowing “not to give up the fight”.

Other civil libertarians and NSA whistleblowers – including mass-surveillance insiders Thomas Drake, Bill Binney, Ed Loomis and Kirk Wiebe – opposed the USA Freedom Act, fearing that its vague legislative wording about what constitutes a “connection” between call records could inadvertently expand NSA authorities.

The NSA has a history of expansive interpretation of legal provisions meant to restrict it, including the Patriot Act measures it claims authorize its domestic phone data dragnets.

Last week, Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky civil libertarian and potential Republican presidential contender, said the USA Freedom Act was too weak for him to support. He is instead urging the expiration of certain surveillance authorities under the Patriot Act next year, as he did unsuccessfully in 2011. He voted against cloture on Tuesday night.

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