from the line-up-the-fud dept
But there's a fight being set up here. A whole bunch of Senators have said that they won't, under any circumstances vote for any renewal bill, short or long:
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday issued a clear and direct joint statement declaring their intent to oppose any extension of the Patriot Act's expiring surveillance authorities that does not end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of U.S. call data.Meanwhile, on the flip side, you have McConnell and Senate Intelligence Committee boss Senator Richard Burr spewing pure nonsense about how not renewing Section 215 will somehow put us all at risk:
"We will not agree to any extension of the NSA's bulk-collection program, which has already been ruled unlawful by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals," the group, which includes Sens. Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee in addition to Reps. Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, Jim Sensenbrenner, and Jerrold Nadler, said.
"We're not taking up the House bill," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, another defender of the NSA, told reporters Wednesday. "The program as designed is effective, and members are reluctant to change things that are effective just because of public opinion."Almost everything Burr states above is totally false. First of all, the program "as designed" is not effective. That's the conclusion of almost everyone who has looked at the details. The White House task force set up to study the program said that it couldn't find any terror attacks stopped by the program. Three Senators on the Intelligence Committee have said the program has never been useful. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) could find no justification for the program. A district court judge, Richard Leon, spoke out about how surprised he was that the DOJ presented no evidence that the program was useful.
Burr said he views the USA Freedom Act as "one and the same" as allowing the Patriot Act provisions to expire entirely. "Because when you do away with bulk storage, you basically have an unworkable system in real-time," he said.
How stupid does Burr think everyone is to then go out there and claim that the program is "effective" and that the Senate believes it's effective.
Separately, the argument that "doing away with bulk storage" creates an "unworkable system" makes no sense either. Given the recent 2nd Circuit ruling, it also appears to be advocating for a program that is both illegal and unconstitutional.
And, of course, that raises a separate point. Even if the Senate does a clean renewal of Section 215, the court has already ruled that that law does not allow for such bulk collection/storage. So, Burr can't claim it's necessary to renew 215 to keep bulk collection, since the law does not actually allow that.
A lot of this is just idiotic political posturing. As Amash notes, this may all just be a game by McConnell and other surveillance state supporters in the Senate to water down an already weak USA Freedom Act bill to make it even less useful (or worse).
Either way, this is all going to come to a head next week. The Senate wants to get this done by the 22nd of May (even though Section 215 doesn't expire until the end of the month), as they're not supposed to be in session the final week of the month. Stay tuned for next week...