Bill Designed to Curb NSA Domestic Surveillance Goes Down in Senate

Thursday, November 20, 2014
By Paul Martin

Strongest legislative effort yet defeated by lawmakers, many of whom used the threat of foreign terrorists to defend the need for mass surveillance without oversight

By Jon Queally
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A cloture vote in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night failed to get the necessary 60 votes needed to move forward the USA Freedom Act, sending the bill, which privacy and civil liberties advocates called the strongest attempt yet to rein in National Security Agency surveillance in the wake of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, down in failure.

Writing for The Intercept, Dan Froomkin described how Republican members of Senate used hype and the rhetoric of fear surrounding foreign terrorist organizations in their ultimately successful bid to kill the legislation:

Senate Republicans, ratcheting up their rhetoric about the threat posed by the Islamic State, on Tuesday night sank the only significant legislative attempt to rein in the National Security Agency in the nearly year and a half since American citizens first learned they were being spied on by their own government.

The procedural vote to move forward on the USA Freedom Act required 60 votes. It received 58. All but one Democrat and four libertarian-leaning Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The rest of the Republicans — including libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — voted against, along with Florida Democrat Bill Nelson. (Here’s the rollcall of the vote.)

During a brief debate before the vote, Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss warned that members of the Islamic State “want people to walk the streets of New York… and start killing people.” And, displaying either a real or feigned ignorance of the extraordinary latitude the NSA will continue to enjoy when it comes to spying on international communications, he suggested that the bulk collection of domestic phone records was necessary to ferret out such plans. (Watch video of the debate.)

The Rest…HERE

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