Rand Paul may be pleased, but the U.S. Senate will vote on NSA spying program tomorrow. The Patriot Act provisions which allow the federal government to capture and store in bulk the meta-data from all phone calls and Internet use did expire at midnight. Rand Paul vowed for a showdown to block future NSA surveillance and he did succeed. A preliminary vote failed to pass. So it is back to the drawing board, most likely adopting a version of the House-written ′USA Freedom Act′, which sets new guidelines on bulk collection of meta-data. Under the House bill, telecom companies would keep and store the meta-data and the government would face additional restrictions on acquiring access via the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.
At the root of all of the ′hub-bub′ is Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to cast a very wide net in acquiring wiretaps, surveillance and meta-data from multiple sources. Even up to 300 million Americans with a single request to the FISC. Barack Obama and his minions in the White House are already trying to keep the surveillance going using another provision, Section 224, which allows for grandfathered investigations to continue.
Obviously, last night′s showdown in the Senate over the NSA spying program helped draw more attention to Rand Paul. You can easily argue that it was a waste of time as some new version of the program will emerge. But for now, the fact is that nothing has really changed. The meta-data is still being collected, if not by the government directly, then by the telecommunication service providers. The government will be able to gain access to the data. Rand Paul may have scored a hit in his quest to raise campaign funds and get some free publicity. But as far as restoring some individual freedom, the whole affair has fallen woefully short.