It looks like the ironically named Patriot Act is finally set to expire despite the best efforts of some of Washington’s worst scoundrels, specifically the sitting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who watched his futile attempts at extending the Patriot Act get crushed by the Senate on Saturday.
This decision of the Senate to block the extension of several sections of the Patriot Act, which allows the NSA to spy on innocent citizens, comes at the end of a tumultuous week of political action–most notably from Senator Rand Paul, who delivered an inspiring 11-hour filibuster last Wednesday where he decried the NSA’s phone snooping and blamed the Obama administration for allowing these affronts against the Constitution to take place.
Rand Paul certainly didn’t pull any punches as he spoke. He stated that “the bulk collection of all Americans’ phone records all of the time is a direct violation of the fourth amendment.” And he’s not the only one who thinks so. The Second Circuit Court ruled that Section 215, the heart and soul of the Patriot Act that allows the NSA to collect data, is illegal and unconstitutional.
And while this might seem like cause for celebration, the fight isn’t over yet. Discussion over the Patriot Act in the Senate will be renewed on May 31, and part of that discussion will involve a possible reform measure called The Freedom Act.
The Freedom Act is being touted by its supporters among the political elite and mainstream media as a good compromise, a bill that assures national security but doesn’t infringe on any individual rights. The Freedom Act would extend the lapsing provisions of the Patriot Act but would theoretically apply some checks and balances on the government by forcing authorities to seek records from phone companies rather than collect data in bulk.
And who are two of the biggest supporters of this “new” measure? President Obama and the NSA! Sorry, but I for one am not about to fall for the same trick twice.
The debates on May 31 will surely hinge on the fate of the now-infamous Section 215, which is set to lapse June 1. Section 215, also known as the business records provision, allows the government to ask companies to turn over the metadata they hold on their customers. Mitch McConnell insists that without a renewal of the Patriot Act as is, our national security would be dealt a killer blow. But let’s look at the facts: there is no documentation to suggest that the Patriot Act has ever been effective. In fact, a recent audit conducted by the Department of Justice Inspector General and the FBI could not determine a single crisis that was averted or extinguished through bulk data collection! Nevertheless, the FBI still expanded the use of that section more than 50 times in a three-year period, showing once more that the government simply cannot be entrusted with such far-reaching powers.
The Patriot Act is part of the same old lie that big government has been peddling since the days of the founding fathers; it is the lie that safety and security can be bought at the expense of freedom. And with the 2016 election knocking at the door, it is paramount that the People elect someone who understands the very real threat that the Patriot Act and other like-minded bills pose to our core national values of personal responsibility and individual liberty.
So far, it’s been hard to ignore the fact that Rand Paul is the loudest spokesman against the Patriot Act and the main patron of freedom from within the GOP’s ranks–especially when his fellow Republicans and presidential nominees Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio have been staunch defenders of the NSA and the Freedom Act. It may all be a campaign stunt, meant to deliver a jolt to his flagging ratings; but this is a conversation the American public should be having.
Whether he’s the leader we need is for the country to decide, but one thing’s for sure: if the GOP is going to take the White House in the upcoming election, then we need to be united in standing up for the values central to the Republican Party. And coming out strong against the Patriot Act seems like the perfect place to start.
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth