NSA Critics Get A Historic Win As Senate Passes USA Freedom Act


History was made today, as the Senate voted 67-32 to reform a key provision of the Patriot Act by scrapping the NSA’s controversial phone metadata collection program.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could only sit and watch as three proposed amendments that his critics called poison polls withered and died. The passage of the USA Freedom Act has been a foregone conclusion for weeks, but McConnell tried to manufacture a crisis to force the passage of a full extension of some key Patriot Act spying powers. The Senate Majority Leader’s strategic blunder left him trapped in a quagmire between Rand Paul and his Democratic opponents.

The Patriot Act has long been a blight on civil liberties, but the degree of victory for NSA critics is debatable. The reforms in the USA Freedom Act are fairly modest. The metadata phone collection program is gone, but it has been replaced by the phone companies collecting the data, which only requires a warrant for a government search. It is better than nothing, but far from the sweeping reform that some are making it out to be.

It is important to remember that the data is still collected. The only difference is where it is being stored.

Senator Bernie Sanders made this point when he announced that he would be voting against the bill:

We must keep our country safe and protect ourselves from terrorists, but we can do that without undermining the constitutional and privacy rights which make us a free nation. This bill is an improvement over the USA Patriot Act but there are still too many opportunities for the government to collect information on innocent people.

This is not just the government. It’s corporate America too. Technology has significantly outpaced public policy. There is a huge amount of information being collected on our individual lives ranging from where we go to the books we buy and the magazines we read. We need to have a discussion about that.

The victory is history because it is the first one of its kind, but your data is still being collected, and it will only take a piece of paper to give the government the ability to search it. Hopefully, the USA Freedom Act is the first step towards full repeal of the Patriot Act.

19 Replies to “NSA Critics Get A Historic Win As Senate Passes USA Freedom Act”

  1. And I get the strangest feeling that for many years to come, we’re going to have to slap the NSA’s hands for continuing on anyways…

  2. Reid and McConnell are wound up big time. Paul is making them all nuts. McCain is blowing his stack. Must be elections silly season in full bloom. Notice how all of a sudden they all started looking like they are working for a change?

  3. I hope it’s causing all the republicans to blow their stacks. You nailed it. It’s election season and they need to put up an illusion of actually working. Republicans are worthless.

    See Rin? We can find common ground. :-)

  4. Then Hoyer should withdraw support for the TPP. If it’s such a great deal then why is it top secret?

  5. Bernie Sanders hit the nail on the head, everyone everyday is giving up a piece of themselves, that can be tracted by someone. When you scan that little card at the grocery, two weeks later you get a cupon for toilet paper. Same with pharmacys, etc. They can get the same info in other ways. Revision of the Patriot Act would’ve been just a bump in the road. The USA Freedom Act is only somewhat better.

  6. Hoyer is neutral isn’t he? If he is pro deal he would have to give up the whip.

    They have a lot of the votes they need and others are holding out for pork. Obama promised one of them an infrastructure discussion for his state, another wants the unions to stop threat of scorched earth or he will vote for it…

    Business as usual.

  7. So, how do we get the NSA to stop gathering the data? Who cares where it’s stored? The point is the gathering of this data hasn’t led to the prevention or arrest of a single terrorist. I’d say it’s pretty clear that it’s not necessary. Stop collecting the data.

  8. *yawn*

    Tell that to Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, your phone company, your cable company…..

  9. Top Secret? Are you sure about that?

    Classified? Sure, the drafts are classified; all the draft trade agreement drafts have been; the TPP is no different. When the document is complete, including I’s dotted and T’s crossed, we get 60 days to look at it, go to Congress and Senate and kick ass as appropriate.

  10. There’s a reason most of the GOP and a small minority of the Democrats support the TPP, TTIP, and TISA.

    It’s because they will make the rich even richer and everyone else poorer.


  11. The Best Thing I’ve Read So Far on TPA/TPP

    It is important to note that right now Congress is debating Trade Promotion Authority (TPA – otherwise known as “fast track’) and not the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. With that in mind, this article by Jerry Wyatt is the best thing I’ve read on that topic so far. Wyatt is writing in support of TPA while holding off judgement on TPP.

    The case Wyatt makes for his support of TPA is that it is the same process that was used to give us the U.S. Constitution. The big argument Sen. Warren seems to have settled on in her opposition (in addition to her disagreement with the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision in TPP) is that the negotiations are currently secret. Wyatt points out that this is the same process adopted by the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
    Read More

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