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The Patriot Act’s Surveillance Provisions Have Expired, but They’ll Probably Be Back Tuesday

The Patriot Act’s Surveillance Provisions Have Expired, but They’ll Probably Be Back Tuesday: Courtesy of Wikimedia.org.

Courtesy of Wikimedia.org.

If members of ISIS sneak into your home and behead your entire family, it’s probably because Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky allowed the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program to expire. Amiright?

In a dramatic late-night session of the Senate, Paul managed to block an extension of three surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act. As of midnight, the government is no longer allowed to collect metadata in bulk, use roving wiretaps, or use national security tools against a suspect with no proven link to a terrorist organization. Investigations that began before June 1 are exempt from the new rules.

Paul and other privacy advocates maintain that these programs are unnecessary, and allow the government too much power to spy on its own citizens. This sentiment has become increasingly popular since Edward Snowden’s revelations about domestic surveillance came to light.

“Little by little, we’ve allowed our freedom to slip away,” Paul told the Senate.

However proponents of the provisions claim fears are widely exaggerated. Members of Paul’s own party are accusing him of grandstanding and demagoguery.

“This is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise,” Sen. John McCain said. “He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.”

While pandering tweets (see above) certainly lend credibility to McCain’s claims, I’m not sure it’s fair to accuse Paul of simply exploiting the Patriot Act for his own campaign, considering both he and his father have been openly criticizing the law for years.

That said, two things are clear. After slight modifications, the Senate will reinstate these surveillance powers as early as Tuesday, so none of this will really matter. Second, and more importantly, watching John McCain and Rand Paul fight is a lot of fun.


Jason Mathews is Internetting way too hard. Follow him at @jasonmathews316.

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