5 Important Takeaways From Rand Paul's Freedom Act Filibuster
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did something brave on Wednesday: his job.
Beginning at 1:18 pm EST, Paul held the floor for over 10 hours while he detailed the shocking and unprecedented practice of bulk collection of data by the US Government.
Whether this was a stunt aimed at boosting his bid for the White House or not, Paul's actions should make you proud.
Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, conservative or progressive, what Paul is fighting for should be a concern at the top of your list. Paul is fighting against the Patriot Act, which he calls “the most unpatriotic of acts.”
At surface level, Paul took the Senate floor to speak until he felt his point had been heard and his opinion known by the electorate of the nation.
Paul gave a 10-hour lecture imploring Congress to change the controversial USA Freedom Act.
This bill is a proposed “fix” to the far more controversial Patriot Act, signed into law following 9/11, which gives the government unprecedented power to locate and eliminate terrorists.
That would be great if the Patriot Act didn't also set the stage for the programs that were exposed in the Edward Snowden leaks of 2013.
Domestic spying, warrantless wiretaps and technology ruled illegal will still operate in secret.
All of this will be brought on by continually fortifying intelligence agencies under the watchful eye of… whom?
In order to understand the true importance of what Paul achieved Wednesday, it is important to understand the severity of domestic spying and bulk data collection.
Let's look at some of the startling points he made during his marathon filibuster:
1. The USA Freedom Act does almost nothing to curb the problems with the Patriot Act
The USA Freedom Act attempts to shield Americans from bulk data collection by redefining whom the government can target.
In addition, the Act fails to adequately address other legislation that gave the NSA and CIA the leeway to collect data on all Americans.
This includes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, Executive Order 12333 (signed by President Reagan) and a whole host of other, smaller legislative moves.
If we aren't able to fully address all of the legislation that has piece by piece built the monster that is the NSA, any attempt to fix our system will be null.
One might even argue the USA Freedom Act goes even further by broadening the definition of who could be spied on.
The USA Freedom act decrees a person to be “an individual […], group […] or corporation.” Once again, we see businesses are people, too.
What this means is that the government can name Verizon in a warrant for that “person's” communications. In the case of Mr. Verizon, that would include every Verizon customer.
2. Giving up “a little” freedom quickly turns into giving up a lot of freedom
Paul correctly points out that when we are willing to sacrifice a small amount of freedom in return for more security, the government will continue to ask us to do it more and more often.
What started out as a small sacrifice will turn into a full-blown spying program riddled with abuse.
3. The USA Freedom Act does not provide a clear-cut way to scrub information
The NSA and other intelligence agencies collect an ungodly amount of data every day.
A majority of that data belongs to average Americans who have done nothing wrong, are not under investigation and have no knowledge their data is being collected.
The USA Freedom Act does not provide any method for this type of data to be minimized. It does not expunge unnecessary data, which allows intelligence agencies to look into any American they want.
4. Courts have ruled aspects of the Patriot Act unconstitutional
If the courts have ruled parts of the Patriot Act to be unconstitutional, then the law should have been scrapped in its entirety years ago.
As we all know, that is not the case. Instead, Congress thinks it can pass a few cosmetic changes to the Bill of Rights infringing act.
The mere fact a majority of Congress thinks the American public would not be paying attention to such a shocking act is offensive at best.
The real solution to this problem is to abolish the Patriot Act in its current form and start again; this time, they'll need to have civil liberties, not fear, in mind.
5. Major corporations have no incentive to protect your rights
When the Patriot Act was originally passed, a provision was included that protected companies and corporations from lawsuits caused by turning over data and information to the Federal government.
The USA Freedom Act appears to provide the same protection to these companies.
When they voluntarily give up the data to the government, the government is not required to obtain certain legal provisions and bypasses the courts.
This is the opposite of consumer protection. Instead of giving the people of the United States the ability to challenge their communications providers on the grounds of domestic surveillance, the government gave companies the option to avoid litigation and simply squash the rights of the people.
All things considered, Paul did something truly unique on Wednesday. He stood up and argued against the NSA machine.
By speaking out against the practice of bulk data collection of United States, Paul brought this critical issue to the forefront of American politics.
Now, it will be up to Congress and the people of the United States to continue the fight to restore our privacy.
If you are interested in watching Rand Paul's 10-plus hours of remarks, you can find it here.
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