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Capitol Hill Conservatives Split On Patriot Act – What Say You?

Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul

Key -- and controversial -- provisions of the Patriot Act expire at the end of May. The entire act isn’t up for renewal, but there are a few provisions that, unless renewed, will sunset on June 1. Among those is the controversial Section 215, which has to do with the mass collection of telephone metadata (and which a federal court ruled against last week). 

There are several contending approaches to the reauthorization.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and presidential contender Marco Rubio, among others, want a “clean” reauthorization.

McConnell has called Section 215, “an important tool to prevent the next terrorist attack.” 

We note for the record that this week’s CHQ Daily Debate poll is about The Patriot Act renewal and no one – zero – responses to this admittedly unscientific poll supported “clean reauthorization.”

On the other side of the spectrum, a group led Senator Rand Paul has threatened to filibuster reauthorization.

Senator Paul has announced that, unless there are major changes, he’ll be filibustering the Patriot Act reauthorization when it comes up for a vote in the near future.

Paul notes that there are those who “contend the NSA data collection has made our country more safe, but even the most vocal defenders of the program have failed to identify a single thwarted plot.”

Senator Paul says “If anything, the terror attack during the Boston marathon is a tragic reminder that casting too wide of a collection net for intelligence can be a distraction from the analysis necessary to stop plots — and, I’d argue, push us further from the fundamental reform necessary for our intelligence agencies to successfully counter terrorism.”

Paul concluded his statement attacking the reauthorization of The Patriot Act by saying, “The NSA should keep close watch on suspected terrorists to keep our country safe — through programs permitting due process, the naming of a suspect, and oversight by an accountable court. The sacrifice of our personal liberty for security is and will forever be a false choice, and I refuse to relinquish our Constitutional rights to opportunistic and overreaching politicians.”

Another approach is the “USA Freedom Act,” a modified reauthorization that would have telephone companies collect the metadata instead of the federal government.

While the records would be searchable, the government would have to go to court to receive authorization to search the records. That compromise is supported  by Senators Ted Cruz, Patrick Leahy, and Mike Lee, among others. It failed in Congress last year, and was reintroduced this year.

Lee, one of Capitol Hill’s most vocal – and respected – advocates of the Fourth Amendment and liberty under the Constitution said this in support of the “USA Freedom Act”:

WE CAN SAY THAT THESE ISSUES ARE NEITHER REPUBLICAN NOR DEMOCRATIC, THEY ARE NEITHER LIBERAL NOR CONSERVATIVE. THEY ARE SIMPLY AMERICAN ISSUES, THEY ARE

CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES. THEY ARE ISSUES THAT RELATE TO THE PROPER ORDER OF GOVERNMENT. THEY'RE ISSUES THAT RELATE TO THE RULE OF LAW ITSELF. THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

PROTECTS THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES. IT DOES SO AGAINST A LONG HISTORICAL BACKDROP OF GOVERNMENT ABUSE.

But Senator Paul and others, including The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, also oppose the “USA Freedom Act” arguing that “One of the reforms being offered in Congress is the USA Freedom Act, which bans bulk collection but replaces that collection with a new authorization for collection from phone companies.

“Now that the appellate court has ruled that Section 215 doesn’t authorize bulk collection, would the USA Freedom Act actually be expanding the Patriot Act?

“That would be a bitter irony if the attempt to end bulk collection actually gave new authority to the Patriot Act to collect records,” concluded Seantor Paul.

The "USA Freedom Act" was drafted before the appellate court issued its ruling on Section 215, so Lee did not have the benefit of the court’s reasoning and evidence when drafting the legislation and revisions to it reflective of the court’s decision may be possible.

Senator Paul’s approach to the issue of Section 215 collection is the "Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act" to block federal, state, and local governments obtaining information on individuals or groups of individuals held by a third party in a system of records without a warrant. This approach would return the law to a “clean” state consistent with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against general warrants.

With limited government constitutional conservative and liberty-minded members of Congress split on what to do about the Patriot Act reauthorization we invite you to vote in today’s Daily Debate poll and to share your views in the comments below. We will highlight the contending comments in a future CHQ article as the debate and vote on the Patriot Act renewal get closer.

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Patriot Act

Dump the whole atrociously named "Patriot Act.".
To the man who is OK with the government snoops there is no more appropriate quote than "Pity the man that values security over freedom, for he shall have NEITHER."

Patriot Act Renewal

Throw the whole damn thing in the trash bin..and get rid of the more egregious NDAA. That particular law has to be banned. When the government can arrest you and insist you are a terrorist with NO proof..DENY you an attorney and hold you INDEFINTELY without cause other than to silence you..is a overstep by government. We have seen how that works out now havent we? While your at it..bring up articles of impeachment against BHO. Then file charges of treason against he ..Jeh Johnson..Hillary..Holder and other bottom feeders in this government. Sell the tickets to the sentence that has been meted out and use those funds to pay down the debt :) Pipe dream for sure..but it felt good to get it out!

Patriot Act Overreach

The gathering of metadata didn't prevent the Boston Marathon bombing, the attack on free speech in Garland, TX, or the recruiting and residence of ISIS terrorist operatives in all 50 states.

We give up our Constitutional rights for what?

Patriot Act Reauthorization

My last research showed that no other country or entity has the snooping capability of the US. Given the terrorism environment we are now living in, it is hard to conclude that discarding a weapon that could make the difference between many or a few attacks makes any sense.

Yes, no American is comfortable with the idea that the all-seeing government is out there poking around in our private affairs such as phone numbers and emails, me included. However, we are talking about the possibility of an existential threat to our country.

Since no other potentially effective alternative has yet to be put forth, to my knowledge, my vote favors continuation of the program.

Conservatives who are other than they pretend

I don't trust Paul Rand. His recent actions with Obamacare and now the trade agreement have not been those of a conservative. What and who does this man represent. He and Rubio are hard to figure and that is not good. I would say there is more to his resistance to the proposed fix that he is not clarifying.

Patriot Act Renewal

Scrap it and while they are at it they can either scratch the NDAA or gut it. Whenever OUR government can arrest a person and suspend Habeas Corpus on the assumption the government can call you a terroist?? Whats wrong with this picture? If barry has a person of interest he doesnt care for or what this individual writes..they can call you a terrorist and lock you up FOREVER if they so DEEM IT...and without access to an attorney?? Get rid of this egregious legislation. Just start profiling in earnest and go after the real criminals..Islamists and rapists and murderers being released by barry and company in order to grant them amnesty. He has turned the whole country upside down and against each other..it needs to addressed and repealed..immediately!!