On Sunday night, the Senate failed to pass an extension of certain Patriot Act provisions related to surveillance and monitoring. Any way you cut it, it is a dense, nuanced issue. So naturally we’ve boiled it down to a list of five things you should know.
5) The NSA data collection has now officially been suspended – that means no phone call collection, no email sorting, no crazy wiretaps – so if you want to say something you shouldn’t … get your fill. If you don’t do it, I will blow up your plane balloon and detonate this atomic bomb candy in the name of Muhammad, who is a pool guy in the area apparently named after some famous religious dude. Also Syria.
4) It’s not dead – Although Rand Paul and other allied Senators were able to block a short term extension of the Patriot Act’s domestic surveillance provisions, the program is not technically dead. The Senate overwhelmingly voted to continue debate on the USA Freedom Act, which has already passed the House. The earliest the bill could be enacted or voted down is Tuesday of this week, however it is likely debate will continue past that point. Not that we are accusing any Senators of grandstanding, but the various declared candidates will all have carefully crafted statements out today. Early reports are surfacing regarding Rand Pauls’ use of the phrase “yeah bitches!”
3) The reason the vote happened late last night, at the very last minute, is that it was scheduled that way by Mitch McConnell. The Senate took the week off for Memorial Day. Prior to that point, the vote had been locked up for days by, among other parliamentary maneuvers, Rand Paul’s filibuster. Please note that this was a week they took off for a day. By extrapolation, we can assume that a two week vacation in Senate time would last about four months. So, you know, set your watches.
2) Edward Snowden is still a complete douchenozzle.
And the number one thing to know about the Patriot Act’s domestic spying program expiration is this:
1) Until midnight last night, the NSA was able to gain real time access to phone calls and internet traffic via surveillance equipment installed at various data and communication centers, which they then would mine and analyze, ostensibly as part of the war on terror. They began taking the system offline at 4pm to meet the midnight deadline. To turn it back on will take approximately 24 hours. So to put the world into perspective, the government can turn monitoring of ALL PHONE CALLS AND EMAILS off and on in the space of an afternoon, but the highway in your city that has been under construction for the last 18 years STILL ISN’T FINISHED.