You may have been following the intricate and arcane maneuvering in the US senate where the fate of key data gathering provisions of the USA Patriot Act are due to expire on June 1 unless Congress takes action before then. Dan Froomkin gives us the current state of play on the debate over the NSA’s blanket collection of data. Froomkin says that currently there are just two options available:
First, three provisions of the Patriot Act — one of which has provided the legal cover for bulk collection — expire on June 1. (Indeed, the Obama administration has already begun the process of winding it down.)
Or second, the Senate passes the USA Freedom Act, which extends those provisions but requires the NSA to request specific records from telecom companies, instead of getting them all.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell wants to extend the NSA’s authority unchanged but thanks to what Edward Snowden has revealed, even members of Congress are unwilling to go along with that. The House voted overwhelmingly for option 2, which still gives the NSA watered down powers but McConnell was not willing to go along with that and now risks losing all of it.
McConnell then tried to extend the current law but was defeated by a maneuver by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) even though he successively reduced the time of extension from June 8 to June 5 to June 3 to June 2.
Why the intransigence on McConnell’s part, opposing something that even the White House and the NSA say they can live with? Froomkin thinks the answer is simple. McConnell simply cannot stand the idea that Snowden forced a change in the way that the US government works and he thinks that passing the House bill would be a vindication of Snowden.
I suspect that in the end he will cave because most members of Congress realize that Snowden’s revelations simply will not allow them to continue with things as they were before, however much McConnell might hate to go along.