Presidential candidate Rand Paul aims at becoming an American hero by defeating the NSA in a showdown in Congress over eliminating provisions of the Patriot Act. It is an all-or-nothing battle for Paul which could win or lose the 2016 election depending on the outcome.
Congress must reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act before provisions expire at midnight on May 31. The section provides for the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct government surveillance deemed legally justified on American citizens. That includes collecting data on conversations from cell phones. Citizens had no idea this was going on until former NSA contractor Edward Snowden publicized the practice.
Plans to renew the law’s provisions were stalled after it was three votes short in the Senate to pass a procedural obstacle. Senators are back in Washington in an attempt to save the three parts of the Patriot Act set to expire, including Section 215. Sen. Rand Paul has vowed to eliminate the section and is threatening a filibuster. Paul has significant leverage in this fight because political experts state it is going to require unanimous consent among the Senators to get a provision in place by midnight. Under Senate protocol, votes are allowed after 6 p.m. President Barack Obama said the NSA’s program into telephone surveillance would be disrupted at 8 p.m. if Congress has not agreed on provisions. The Senate has another option, passing the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House in a 338-88 vote of bipartisan support earlier in May.
Republican leaders, including some announced and unannounced presidential hopefuls like former Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum, have decried Paul for his staunch position on this issue. One critic is a presumed hopeful in the 2016 presidential race, Republican former Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush said he believes the NSA data collection does not violation citizens’ civil rights. Bush also commended his brother, President George W. Bush, for implementing the Patriot Act after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The former president also established the Homeland Security division at the same time.
These Republican leaders are out of touch with the American people on this issue, according to the most recent political polls. According to a Pew Research Center poll, only six percent of Americans trust the government regarding security of personal data. Only six percent trust telephone companies with their privacy. Most citizens feel like they are being watched and feel use of the data collected is out of their control. Given these facts, it is easily assumed that most will stand with Rand Paul in his efforts to defeat the NSA and become an American hero in doing so.
That will be good for him if the presidential candidate manages to stall the vote and gets Section 215 eliminated. He said he plans to use procedure to get his on amendments on the floor, which will deflate certain portions of the Patriot Act. A large feat, to be sure, but one that will serve Paul well in the presidential race as he will be able to claim that he is the only candidate to attempt to save a vulnerable American public from a invasive government.
It would serve other GOP candidates to listen to Paul instead of cast him to the outskirts of political powers. Paul makes sense on this issue and he believes there are other ways to create safety in this country. The senator is right. Passing the Patriot Act and creating Homeland Security was a knee-jerk reaction to terrorism. Allowing the government to overstep the Fourth Amendment to provide safety creates a win for terrorists, whose goal is to disrupt America’s way of life and create an atmosphere of fear. It also goes against the values of the United States forefathers. Benjamin Franklin once said those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. America needs to re-learn this. Eliminate mass data collection. Stand in support of Rand Paul as he aims to be an American hero in his defeat of the NSA. Even if it does not happen this time, the American public needs to make sure it does happen.
Opinion by Melody Dareing
The Hill: Patriot Act’s fate now in Rand Paul’s hands
The Sun-Sentinel: Jeb Bush says Rand Paul ‘wrong’ on ending surveillance laws
Real Clear Politics: Poll: Few Trust NSA Data Collection Practices
Photo Courtesy of Rand Paul for U.S. Senate Flickr Page – Creative Commons