Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky staged an 11-hour filibuster on May 20, speaking against reauthorization of the soon-to-expire Patriot Act and denouncing the government’s bulk collection of phone records.
“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,” Paul said.
Paul took the Senate floor for his Patriot Act filibuster just after 1 p.m. and did not yield until a little before midnight.
“It was kind of nice to have bipartisan support. I think really there’s unanimity among a lot of us that the bulk collection ought to end,” Paul said. Several other senators, both Republican and Democrat, took to the floor in support of Paul’s filibuster.
Before the Patriot Act’s expiration deadline of June 1, a Senate vote is expected on a House-passed bill that prevents the government from collecting phone record metadata as they have previously done and instead requires the government to obtain a court order to get data from the phone companies.
The House bill passed with vast bipartisan support in a 338-88 vote. The bill has the support of the White House and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, but a split among Republicans has emerged. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other hawkish Senate Republicans oppose the restrictions on government collection of metadata from phone calls and instead favor an extension of the Patriot Act’s provisions that authorize the collection of phone records.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush, another likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, spoke in favor of the Patriot Act. Jeb Bush has been a supporter of government surveillance, saying the bulk collection of phone record data of every American is necessary to keep America safe from terrorist attacks. His brother, former President George W. Bush, signed the Patriot Act into law after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Patriot Act has come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about the extent of government surveillance authorized by the act. Government data-collection methods revealed by Snowden included unrestricted tapping into major Internet provider and website metadata, collecting private phone calls and emails, and even spying on the leaders of other countries.
NSA analysts have used surveillance data inappropriately to spy on significant others and spouses, according to documents released by the agency.
Opponents of the Patriot Act, including the independent senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, have criticized it for authorizing indefinite detention, allowing for warrantless search of homes and businesses without the owner’s knowledge or consent, and expanding metadata collection by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Paul’s filibuster isn’t the first time he has opposed the Patriot Act. In 2011, he pushed the Patriot Act’s renewal up to a midnight deadline.
Many provisions of the Patriot Act were originally meant to sunset out of existence but were made permanent in 2005.