Passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act was a rush to grant law enforcement sweeping powers that they had not had prior to its passage. Most of the act is classified, and it it rumored that just talking about it is a felony. Over the weekend, the Patriot Act was on the chopping block, with numerous politicians scrambling to save it, and the authorizations that it grants. The most sweeping of those being the bulk collection of meta-data by the NSA. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood alone against its renewal. In fact, Senator John McCain (R-Az.) said:
“He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.” (as heard on CBS World News Roundup – 1Jn2015).
Despite Senator McCain’s opinion, many people would disagree, both in the United States and abroad.
That being said, it is clear that Rand Paul is not naive, admitting that the bill will eventually pass and the wiretapping will go on.
What surprises me is that Senator McCain even thinks something like a filibuster could or would have any effect on the bulk collection of data. As if the expiration of a law could stop it? And before you get on your soapbox and rant that “It is a law, it is no longer in force, therefore it is illegal,” allow me to point out a few facts.
The federal bureaucracy moves with glacial inertia. It is very hard to get things moving but once you do, it is almost impossible to make them stop. This is even more so in the intelligence community with is not subject to any sort of real oversight. The bulk collection of data is a huge industry. There are building springing up like mushrooms to support the effort. Contracts worth billions of dollars have been let by the government and the companies that hold those contracts will do everything in their power to keep those contracts active.
Short of an international delegation overseeing the complete shutdown of the collection process (much like under the SALT agreements for nuclear disarmament) the bulk collection of data is here to stay. Legally, or not.