Patriot Act parts expire
Once again, for now, you are secure in your telephony metadata “papers” against unreasonable search and seizure. You are also secure in the “papers” another place of business might have on you. Neither may the FBI decide on its own to call you a terrorist and tap your new phone as soon as you throw the old phone away. All this began one minute past midnight this morning. Why? Because three parts of the USA-PATRIOT Act quietly expired.
Mr. Paul Goes to Washington
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took credit for blocking the Senate from merely extending the Patriot Act in present form. No one doubts Senator Paul’s role. In fact, key Senators from his own party hate him for it.
- Senator Paul refused to attend a “strategy session” for moving any bill to extend the Patriot Act or replace its offensive parts.
- Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Paul’s senior colleague and Republican Floor Leader, asked unanimous consent on extending two Patriot Act parts for two weeks. Senator Paul objected. After that, McConnell played Claude Rains to Paul’s Jimmy Stewart. He called Paul a few choice names. Paul, by the New York Times account, sat where he was, taking it.
- After that, Senator Paul again used the filibuster. In this he recalled his earlier filibuster last week that caused the delay. He also, of course, reprised Jimmy Stewart’s famous filibuster in Mister Smith Goes to Washington (dir. Frank Capra; with James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, and Edward Arnold; Columbia Pictures, 1939).
- In that same filibuster, Paul also quoted another actor, Peter Finch, in Network (dir. Sidney Lumet; with Faye Dunaway, William Holden, and Peter Finch; MGM-UA, 1976).
Neither of the two august actors who presaged the Paul-McConnell drama, still lives. Neither does Peter Finch; he died a year after MGM-UA released his iconic film. Pity. One would love to know what Stewart and Rains both thought of what happened in the Senate yesterday. That also applies to Peter Finch, after Paul quoted part of his famous rant. The first part, some might consider “not safe for work.” But one recognizes the second part (in the emphasized text) in Senator Paul’s actual words, from The Hill:
Are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? Are we going to so blindly go along and just say, “take it”? Well, I’m not going to take it anymore. I don’t think the American People are going to take it anymore.
The New York Times reporters blame Senator McConnell. He never should have let the Senate go home for a full week to observe Memorial Day. Now the Senate must wait until one a.m. tomorrow even to start talking about replacing the three expired parts.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) blamed Senator Paul directly, according to The Hill. He said Paul ought to learn the rules of the Senate. Paul did not answer the jibe.
What the Patriot Act means
The full name of the USA-PATRIOT Act stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” That name sounds good, good enough perhaps to fool several leading commentators at the Fox News Channel. (But they do not fool Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, late of the Superior Court of New Jersey! He has long charged the FBI used to write its own warrants under this Act. The British wrote similar “writs of assistance” during the American War for Independence.)
Senator Paul makes a simple point. The Patriot Act neither “unites” nor “strengthens” America. He finds the “tools” the Patriot Act “provides” neither “appropriate,” “required,” nor even effective to “intercept or obstruct terrorism.”
We have good reason to agree. The FBI’s modern “writs of assistance” did not stop Tamerlin and Dzokhar Tsarnaev from killing three and maiming hundreds at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The FBI did “make” their suspects, from live footage available to everyone. In fact, an ad hoc group of rank amateurs “made” the same two faces before the FBI announced their suspects. (That’s our best evidence, by the way, that the FBI itself did not lay on a bloody “pseudo-operation” at the Marathon.)
The House has a bill to replace the most odious parts of the Patriot Act. They call it USA-FREEDOM, for Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and On-line Monitoring. Senator Paul retorts: the Freedom Act does neither.
Senator Paul admits he cannot stop the Senate from re-authorizing those three parts of the Patriot Act, or any one or two of them, in the same or a different form, forever. But at least he “got it on the record.”
The Times suggests Senator Paul stopped the Senate from extending the Patriot Act to boost a “flagging” campaign for President. But he did this to finish something he started weeks ago.