With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to sabotage the tepid surveillance “reform” bill known as the USA Freedom Act with toxic amendments going down to defeat, Emperor Obama has won again. On Tuesday night Obama signed the new bill into law over the caterwauling of big government fascists and the whining of sore loser McConnell. The Senate voted 67-32 to approve the bill – Lindsey Graham skipped the vote – and send it to Obama’s desk. Despite all of the hoopla this is not nearly the “sweeping” reform of the United States of Big Brother that the media trumpets it as but it’s a start and represents the first time that spying laws have actually been loosened since 2001.
According to a Reuters report “Obama signs bill reforming surveillance program”:
President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday legislation passed by Congress earlier in the day reforming a government surveillance program that swept up millions of Americans’ telephone records.
Reversing security policy in place since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the bill ends a system exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The spy agency collected and searched records of phone calls looking for terrorism leads but was not allowed to listen to their content.
Passage of the USA Freedom Act, the result of an alliance between Senate Democrats and some of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, was a victory for Obama, a Democrat, and a setback for Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
After the Senate voted 67-32 on Tuesday to give final congressional approval to the bill, Obama used his Twitter account, @POTUS, to say he was glad it had passed. “I’ll sign it as soon as I get it,” the tweet said.
Before voting, senators defeated three amendments proposed by Republican leaders after they reversed themselves and ended efforts to block it. The House of Representatives passed the measure overwhelmingly last month.
In the end, 23 Senate Republicans voted for the Freedom Act, joining 196 who backed it in the House. In a rift between Republicans, who control both chambers, House leaders had warned that amendments proposed by McConnell would be a “challenge” for the House that could delay the bill.
A federal appeals court on May 7 ruled the collection of “metadata” illegal.
That McConnell and the authoritarian block of the imperial Senate demanded that the collection of the phone records continue despite the ruling that it was obviously “illegal” should be a message to all liberty loving Americans. That message is that the only time that these high-rolling pricks have their backs is when they are burying their daggers in them. Old Mitch continued flogging the dead horse of a talking point that the government was not “listening” to your phone calls until the end but it’s a straw man argument. There is no way to possibly listen to every call but the calls are recorded, then stored in huge data repositories like that big NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah and the metadata serves as an index. There are also NSA computers that transcribe the speech into text which takes up much less storage space. So McConnell, Obama and the rest of them have been lying their asses off but what else is new.
McConnell obviously didn’t enjoy getting his ass handed to him on this and did not go quietly according to the Politico piece entitled “Senate bucks Mitch McConnell, breaks surveillance logjam”:
Passage of the USA Freedom Act without any changes left McConnell where he would have been if he hadn’t worked to gather opposition to the House surveillance reform bill in late May — not to mention when he blocked a similar reform bill late last year when he was minority leader. But McConnell was boxed in by the wide bipartisan backing of the USA Freedom Act in the House and a lack of time: With the Senate limping into the second day of a self-inflicted shutdown, he was left with no other option than to accept the bill.
Inside the Republican lunch on Tuesday, leadership led a big push to lock down support for the amendments, betting that the House would accept the changes. Paul, who has been the chief Senate obstacle in the surveillance fight, skipped the lunch.
Speaking to reporters afterward, McConnell at times pounded the lectern to emphasize that “no one is listening to your phone calls.” He pulled out his BlackBerry to read a new CNN poll that found 61 percent of Americans supported extending the PATRIOT Act and said, “Congress is misreading the public mood if they think Americans are concerned about the privacy implications of this.
“There’s some of us who feel very strongly about this, and we were not going to just roll over and accept the House bill without debating it and attempting to amend it,” McConnell said. “You’d think it was the Ten Commandments. The Senate is entitled to change the bill.”
While the USA Freedom Act – they really love those Orwellian names – is better than its full-blown fascist predecessor, it is still only the first baby step towards bringing the surveillance state under the rule of law. The cancer is just too advanced and can’t simply be cut out by changing one or two aspects of the NSA Stasi’s ongoing crusade to “collect it all”. Let’s hope that Rand Paul will get some momentum from this and carry his defense of American civil liberties into the 2016 presidential debates although the establishment will be more determined than ever to silence him now.