Domestic Spying ‘Suspended’ But Almost Certainly Continues Unabated
Don't believe everything you read in the papers.
The New York Times lede is typical of the reporting on the Senate’s failure to pass a timely extension of the USA PATRIOT Act:
The government’s authority to sweep up vast quantities of phone records in the hunt for terrorists expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, blocked an extension of the program during an extraordinary and at times caustic Sunday session of the Senate.
Given that said authority was at best at the edge of legislative authority when the program was initiated, I’m exceedingly skeptical that the program will be impacted in the slighted one iota’s by the Senate’s actions or inactions last night. Absent Congress actively legislating an end to the program—which isn’t going to happen—the NSA and other agencies will continue right along doing what they believe necessary to accomplishing their broader mission.
I would otherwise be more concerned than my co-blogger Doug Mataconis about the lapse. While I agree with the spirit of this
The panicked rhetoric from the White House, the intelligence community, and most of the Senate about what would happen if the Patriot Act were allowed to lapse has been laughably absurd, especially in light of the FBI’s admission that the powers granted by the act had not stopped a single terror attack and that the Patriot Act has been used more in drug cases than terror cases in its fourteen year history. If nothing else, it is now quite clear where certain people in both the Republican and Democratic parties stand when it comes to civil liberties issue. Whether the American people will care about that is there choice, but as far as I’m concerned Senators Paul and Wyden have done the nation a great service.
I believe Paul and Wyden have been too cavalier. While I absolutely agree that the post-9/11 panic that spawned a lot of bad policy—the PATRIOT Act, the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and other overreactions come readily to mind—the job Congress is to offer thoughtful corrections. The NSA’s data mining program almost certainly goes too far in infringing civil liberties with too little gain in security. But the solution is in striking the right balance, not suspending the program entirely.