The PATRIOT Act, signed into law by George Bush after the tragic 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, has to be renewed by midnight on the night of Sunday, the 31st of this month, or the powers granted to the American Intelligence community, specifically, those granted under section 215, which the NSA and others interpret as allowing them to collect millions of American’s phone records without a warrant, will end.
That was what Rand Paul, whose father Ron Paul was one of the few Republicans in the House of Representatives not to vote for the PATRIOT Act on its first passing, took to the floor to filibuster against. Yesterday, as the clock ticked down, the Senate was unable to pass a continuing measure. The Senate departs now for recess for the week, and the House is already gone. They won’t be back until Sunday, when they will have only a few hours remaining to pass a bill most agree they won’t be able to. If that continuing resolution fails, the articles granting the intelligence services such as the NSA power to collect our phone records will end, and the long saga which began with Edward Snowden, will end in at least one victory, for we, the people.
There are many, including Marco Rubio, the Jr. Senator from Florida who is also running for president, and a friend of Rand Paul’s, who argue that America needs to be more concerned with its security than about how legitimate it is for the government to collect the phone records.
But that is not the case. The Constitution clearly states in the fourth amendment that:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Under Section 2015, no warrant is needed, and the "things to be seized" are not "particularly" described. In other words, a simple reading would insinuate that Section 215 is unconstitutional.
A nation is nothing if not built on the rule of law. In the mad dash to find security after 9/11, this act, and possibly others, went too far. It has taken far too long to rectify, but at last, it looks as if Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is going to die a peaceful death, at home in its bed. RIP.
This is only the beginning, even the Whistleblower Edward Snowden, the man who told us all about this in the first place admits there is much more to do. But it does feel like the tides are shifting, and maybe, just maybe, this could be the beginning of a time when Americans right to privacy, real privacy, is finally secured.
Andrew C. Abbott