Surveillance powers lapse with no deal in Senate

May 31, 2015, 10:30 PM
FILE – In this April 7, 2015 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. holds up his cell phone as he ...
FILE - In this April 7, 2015 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. holds up his cell phone as he speaks before announcing the start of his presidential campaign, in Louisville, Ky. Key Patriot Act anti-terror provisions, including bulk collection of Americans' phone records, expire at midnight unless senators come up with an 11th hour deal in an extraordinary Sunday afternoon session. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency lost its authority at midnight to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, after GOP Sen. Rand Paul stood in the way of extending the fiercely contested program in an extraordinary Sunday Senate session.

But that program and several other post-Sept. 11 counter-terror measures look likely to be revived in a matter of days. With no other options, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an about-face, reluctantly embraced a House-passed bill that would extend the anti-terror provisions, while also remaking the bulk phone collections program.

Although the lapse in the programs may be brief, intelligence officials warned that it could jeopardize Americans’ safety and amount to a win for extremists. But civil liberties groups applauded as Paul, who is running for president, forced the expiration of the once-secret program made public by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which critics say is an unconstitutional intrusion into Americans’ privacy.

The Senate voted 77-17 to move ahead on the House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act, which only last weekend fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. For McConnell, it was a remarkable retreat after objecting ferociously that the House bill would make the bulk phone collections program dangerously unwieldy by requiring the government to search records maintained by phone companies.

“It’s not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it’s now the only realistic way forward,” McConnell said.

The White House backs the House bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement: “The Senate took an important — if late — step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly.”

But the Senate adjourned without final action on the bill after Paul asserted his prerogative under Senate rules to delay a final vote for a couple of days. And a couple of hours later, the midnight deadline came and went.

“This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? … I’m not going to take it anymore,” Paul declared on the Senate floor hours earlier, as supporters wearing red “Stand With Rand” T-shirts packed the spectator gallery.

Paul’s moves greatly complicated matters for fellow Kentuckian McConnell, who has endorsed him for president, and infuriated fellow Republicans. They exited the Senate chamber en masse when Paul stood up to speak following the procedural vote on the House bill.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained to reporters that Paul places “a higher priority on his fundraising and his ambitions than on the security of the nation.”

Paul, for his part, asserted that, “People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”

In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also lapsed at midnight: one, so far unused, helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones. McConnell tried Sunday to extend just those provisions for two weeks, but Paul objected.

The House bill extends those two provisions unchanged, while remaking the bulk collection program so that the NSA would stop collecting the phone records after a six month transition period, but would be authorized under court order to search records held by phone companies.

The FBI’s use of the Patriot Act to collect hotel, travel, credit card, banking and other business records in national security investigations would also be extended under the House bill. Law enforcement officials say the collection of those business records is more valuable than the better-known bulk phone collections program. Ongoing investigations would be permitted to continue even though authority for the programs has lapsed.

Rebooting the phone collections program would take about a day.

CIA Director John Brennan was among those warning that letting the authorities lapse, even for a time, will make America less safe.

“Terrorist elements … are looking for the seams to operate within,” Brennan said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”This is something that we can’t afford to do right now.” He bemoaned “too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue” and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.

For Paul, the issue represents a potent political opportunity, and his presidential campaign has been sending out numerous fundraising appeals focused on it. A super PAC supporting him even produced an over-the-top video casting the dispute as a professional wrestling-style “Brawl for Liberty” between Paul and President Barack Obama — even though Paul’s main opponent on the issue is McConnell.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Technology

FILE - This Wednesday, July 24, 2019 photo shows an Apple Store in Chicago is seen. Apple reports f...
Associated Press

Apple suffers 1st quarterly sales decline in nearly 4 years

Apple on Thursday posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years after pandemic-driven restrictions on its China factories curtailed sales of the latest iPhone during the holiday season. The company’s sales of $117 billion for the October-December period represented a 5% decline from the same time in the previous year, a deeper downturn […]
17 hours ago
The Amazon DTW1 fulfillment center is shown in Romulus, Mich., April 1, 2020. Amazon reports financ...
Associated Press

Amazon beats Q4 revenue estimates, but profits slump

NEW York (AP) — Amazon on Thursday reported worse-than-expected profits, but its revenue beat expectations boosted by sales in its cloud-computing unit AWS, which is also seeing a slow-down in growth. Amazon said it made $300 million in profits, or 3 cents per share, falling below the $2.03 billion analysts surveyed by FactSet had been […]
17 hours ago
FILE- In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo the logo for Alphabet appears on a screen at the Nasdaq Mar...
Associated Press

Alphabet posts lower Q4 profit amid ad squeeze, competition

Google’s parent company Alphabet on Thursday posted lower profit and a small revenue increase for last year’s fourth quarter, as a decline in online ad spending and competition from rivals weigh on the search giant. While overall revenue grew, advertising revenue fell by nearly 4% and revenue at YouTube declined 8% year-over-year. That appeared to […]
17 hours ago
An empty pitcher and shot sized cups sit on an altar during an ayahuasca ceremony hosted by Humming...
Associated Press

Psychedelic churches in US pushing boundaries of religion

HILDALE, Utah (AP) — The tea tasted bitter and earthy, but Lorenzo Gonzales drank it anyway. On that night in remote Utah, he was hoping for a life-changing experience, which is how he found himself inside a tent with two dozen others waiting for the psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca to kick in. Soon, the […]
17 hours ago
Hiroki Totoki, the Chief Financial Officer, will become the president and COO, Sony Corp.speaks dur...
Associated Press

Sony CFO to lead entertainment-electronic giant as president

TOKYO (AP) — Sony appointed a veteran executive as its president Thursday to lead the Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate through changing times, and reported a decline in its profit in the last quarter. Hiroki Totoki, Sony’s chief financial officer, will become its president and COO, Sony Corp. said in a statement. Kenichiro Yoshida remains […]
2 days ago
FILE - Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San F...
Associated Press

Ex-aide says Elon Musk had ‘handshake deal’ for Tesla buyout

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Elon Musk’s former chief of staff on Wednesday testified that the billionaire believed he had a “handshake deal” to take Tesla private in 2018 shortly before he tweeted he had the financing for an aborted buyout that is still haunting him in a high-profile trial. Sam Teller, who worked closely Musk […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Surveillance powers lapse with no deal in Senate