Section 215 sunsets
by Tom Sullivan
USA Freedom Act advances 77-17 in the Senate. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act expired at midnight, ending (temporarily, at least) the bulk collection of Americans' phone records:
In a double blow for Washington security hawks, represented by embattled Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, it now looks likely that Congress will have to wait several days before passing that bill, the USA Freedom Act.
The reform legislation, which bans the NSA from collecting Americans’ telephone records in bulk, was initially opposed by McConnell. But with the clock ticking down toward the midnight expiration of broader powers initially granted after 9/11 under the Patriot Act, Republican leaders had few options but to get behind the bill as the best way of preserving other surveillance authority.
Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico spent time on the Senate floor last night debunking past assertions by the intelligence community that the bulk collection was essential to national security. Conventional intelligence gathering is sufficient to do the job without bulk collection of Americans' data, they argued. "Not a single instance" of bulk collection materially improving security has turned up, Wyden said.
.@RonWyden ODNI has given 5 different explanations for why [Clapper lied] abt collecting data on millions of Americans.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) May 31, 2015
Heinrich and others credited whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about the secret program as a factor in shifting the debate:
“No doubt it played a role,” Republican senator Dean Heller told the Guardian. “I think it played the same role for me as it did for most of the American people, who were surprised and stunned that the government had this sort of access to this kind of data.”Security hawks forecast apocalypse with a chance of brimstone: