Key Provisions of Patriot Act Expire Today

Patriot-ACTWASHINGTON — The government’s ability/authority to collect personal phone records in the hunt for terrorists expired at 12:01 a.m. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, blocked an extension of the program during an unusual Sunday session of the Senate.
The Senate had already signaled that it was ready to curtail the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program with new legislation that would shift the storage of telephone records from the government to the phone companies. The House overwhelmingly passed that bill last month. Senators voted, 77 to 17, on Sunday to take up the House bill.

Mr. McConnell, also of Kentucky, relented Sunday, setting up a final round of votes on Tuesday or Wednesday that will most likely send a compromise version of the House bill to President Obama for his signature. Even Mr. Paul, using the procedural weapon of an objection, will not be able to stop it.

“Little by little, we’ve allowed our freedom to slip away,” Mr. Paul said on floor.

The expiration of [un]patriotic authority demonstrates a profound shift in American attitudes since the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when national security ruled both parties. Fourteen years after that attack, Americans have finally awaken to privacy concerns stemming from both the vast expansion of communication collection systems.

Three key provisions of the Patriot Act have expired that will stop collection of newly created logs of Americans’ phone calls in bulk. No longer can the F.B.I. invoke the Patriot Act to obtain, for new investigations purposes, or wiretap orders that continue after a suspect changes phones, wiretap orders for a “lone wolf” terrorism suspect not linked to a group, or court orders to obtain business records relevant to an investigation.

The Justice Department may invoke a grandfather clause for ongoing investigations.

Democrats and the libertarian wing of the Republican Party used the shift in the national mood to end the program supported by Mitch McConnell and other chicken hawks. The moment also put Mitch at odds with Mr. Paul, whom he has endorsed for president.

Rand Paul’s effort clearly angered many of his Republican colleagues, who met without him an hour before the Senate began to vote Sunday night. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona said Mr. Paul was not fit for the White House job he seeks.

The USA Freedom Act will overhaul the Patriot Act and scale back the bulk collection of phone records revealed by Mr. Snowden. Under this bill, sweeps that had operated under the guise of so-called national security letters issued by the F.B.I. would end. All data will be stored by the phone companies and could be retrieved by intelligence agencies only after approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

President Obama have made dire warnings in recent days about the perils of letting the law expire and called for immediate approval of a surveillance bill passed by the House.

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