There may still be a few Lawfare readers who are not so disgusted with their legislature—and their legislators—that they are still following the Senate’s ongoing machinations over the USA Freedom Act. For those who can still contemplate the subject without nausea, here’s the state of play in a nutshell. The sunsetting provisions of the Patriot Act lapsed last night. But the Senate apparently is moving forward after-the-fact on a bill that is substantially similar—with a few differences—from the bill it could not move either six months ago or a week ago.
Latest in FISA: Reform
The ACLU's Chris Soghoian explains (time 25:52-30:55) why the current debate over Section 215 of the Patriot Act is just a minor facet of a large and complex bulk collection program by the FBI and the NSA.
Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell – both Republican Senators from Kentucky – despise the USA Freedom Act for different reasons. As readers know, the Freedom Act ends bulk collection while giving the NSA the ability quickly to query metadata held by telecommunications providers under a narrow and specific court-supervised standard. The bill gives neither civil liberties groups nor the NSA everything they want, but it does give them what they – and the country – need: an end to bulk collection and reforms to the Foreig
The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice has released a new unclassified report reviewing the FBI's use of Section 215 orders from 2007 through 2009.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board's Rachel Brand penned an opinion piece in today's Christian Science Monitor. It opens:
Dustin Volz of the National Journal has obtained a memo from the Department of Justice circulated among congressional offices today that says the NSA will need to begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata collection program authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act by Friday, May 22nd.
Julian Hattem has a good piece in the Hill on the current state of play in the Senate with respect to expiration of the Patriot Act provisions in less than two weeks:
Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said he would allow a vote on legislation overhauling the nation’s surveillance programs, which could give him more leverage in the fight over the National Security Agency’s future.
Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently made comments to press suggesting that he believed the sunset for Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act will occur sometime during June 1, 2015, and that this was no big deal. Senator Burr told MSNBC:
Likely you've heard: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last night introduced a bill that would reauthorize portions of the Patriot Act set to expire on June 1 for two months, giving lawmakers extra time to consider whether to approve the USA Freedom Act, a clean re-authorization of the Patriot Act's provisions, or some other formulation.
That is the title of remarks which I will deliver this morning at the National Security Agency, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Church and Pike hearings. My speech begins as follows:
You honor me greatly by inviting me back to address you today. I hope to prove worthy of it.