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Rand Paul stages Senate filibuster against Patriot Act

Bipartisan effort to kill Section 215

Rand Paul

Update Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is currently four hours into a filibuster on the Senate floor over plans to renew sections of the Patriot Act that allow mass surveillance of American citizens.

"There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now and I will not let the Patriot act, the most unpatriotic of acts go unchallenged," he said.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the NSA uses for legal cover for the collection of all mobile phone metadata in the US, is due to expire on June 1, and a number of options are on the table. Senate Majority Leader Mich McConnell (R-KY) has introduced a bill to simply reauthorize the illegal provision, but has little support in the Senate for such a plan.

The revised USA Freedom Act, passed by the House of Representative earlier this month, is another option. This imposes mild reforms on collecting data on US citizens, although everyone else in the world is fair game, and the legislation has a good deal of support.

The other option is to either let the sections of the Patriot Act lapse, which could be a popular move, or to pass a short term motion giving more time to work out a compromise. The Senate is due to go into recess on May 22, so time is short.

Senator Paul wants to see the Patriot Act provisions lapse, and has said he is prepared to hold the floor until unable to speak to achieve this. He's being helped by a bipartisan bag of senators who are taking turns to ask him long questions discussing the issue and allow Paul a chance to sit down, have some water, and rest his throat.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) was the first to give aid. Wyden, who famously caught the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lying about the extent of NSA surveillance, is an opponent of the Patriot Act in its current form, and he was not alone in helping with the filibuster.

Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are helping Paul in his filibuster as well and it may be that the Kentucky senator can beat his previous best on the floor, when he spoke for nearly 13 hours on the American use of drone strikes.

You can see the debate here on C-SPAN as it unfolds. ®

Update

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) concluded his filibuster shortly before midnight, saying "my voice is rapidly leaving and my bedtime is long since passed". Despite speaking for ten and half hours, in concluding his speech fifteen minutes before midnight Paul failed in his tactic to delay the Senate's business until the next day.

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