After an all-night session, Rand Paul [R-KY] and Ron Wyden [D-OR] tag-teamed majority leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY] and beat him to the mat — he has abandoned the current legislative effort to extend section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes mass surveillance and is set to expire on June 1.
This was not what we expected — political handicappers had put safe money on some kind of compromise emerging from today's session. With no such compromise in sight, McConnell will have to start over, twisting arms and knocking heads to get Congress to re-authorize another long stretch of unaccountable, secret mass surveillance. He's got his work cut out for him as the Senate has adjourned until May 31 — 24 hours before the deadline.
Don't forget: the FBI has admitted that Section 215 surveillance has never produced intelligence that led to them cracking a terrorism-related case or preventing a single terrorist attack.
It's not all good news: the better-than-nothing, still-not-great USA Freedom Act — which placed some limits on mass surveillance also got beaten back in the Senate.
Tonight, the US Senate failed to move ahead with the USA Freedom Act, an NSA reform bill that would address phone record surveillance and FISA Court transparency and fairness. It also was unable to muster votes for a temporary reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the section of law used to justify the mass phone records surveillance program. That's good news: if the Senate stalemate continues, the mass surveillance of everyone's phone records will simply expire on June 1.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act has been wrongly interpreted in secret by the government for years. We commend every Senator who voted against reauthorizing the unconstitutional surveillance of millions of law-abiding Americans.
In the wake of tonight's vote, Congress must stop stalling and address the surveillance and secrecy abuses of our government.
The battle isn't over. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for another attempt to reauthorize Section 215 on Sunday May 31, only hours before the provision is set to expire.
EFF urges Congress to again reject Section 215 reauthorization, and then turn to addressing other surveillance abuses by the US government, including mass surveillance of the Internet, the secretive and one-sided FISA Court, and the problems of secrecy and over-classification that have created the environment that allowed such spying overreach to flourish.
The Clock is Still Running: Neither NSA Reform Nor Reauthorization Advances in Senate
[Lee Tien/Electronic Frontier Foundation]