After Basically No Debate, And No Opportunity For Amendments, Senate Votes To Expand NSA Surveillance
from the not-unexpected,-but-dumb dept
As was unfortunately expected, after a very short (and fairly stupid) debate that was full of misleading statements that focused more on “but… but… terrorism!” than anything substantive, the Senate has voted for cloture on the same bill the House approved last week that extends and expands the NSA’s 702 surveillance program, opening it up to widespread abuse and refusing to do simple things like adding in a warrant requirement when used to spy on Americans. The vote was actually surprisingly close — going right down to the wire. They needed 60 votes to get this bill over the top and they almost didn’t get them. The final vote was 60 to 39 with the final vote (well over an hour after the vote starting) coming from Senator Claire McCaskill in favor of warrantless spying on Americans.
This is not all that surprising, even if it’s disappointing. It follows the pattern that we’ve seen with surveillance programs over the past decade. Whenever they are up for renewal, Congress refuses to debate or discuss serious reforms until there’s like a week left… and then they have a simplistic and rushed debate that basically consists of the hawks freaking out about how we’re all going to die if the NSA can’t keep spying on people, and civil liberty defenders pointing to the 4th Amendment, only to have the surveillance state supporters push back that the NSA protects us and is full of good people and how dare you question their good nature by insisting on petty little things like “warrants” as required by the Constitution.
The cloture vote is not technically the final vote. It just shuts down debate and blocks the ability to raise any amendments. There will be a final vote soon, but the cloture vote is, effectively, the important vote here, and having voted for cloture the bill will pass — and despite President Trump’s confusion last week, he will sign the bill, and the NSA will get to turn back on its “about” surveillance capabilities it had been forced into shutting down last year, and the FBI will continue to get full, warrantless access to the “backdoor” or “incidental” collections of the communications of many, many Americans without a warrant and without anything approaching probable cause.
While this was expected to turn out this way, it’s still bad. It’s our Senate (and the House and the White House) purposely spitting on the 4th Amendment of the Constitution to appease the NSA and the FBI. And, as with last week, it’s especially incredible to see a number of Senators who have spoken out against Donald Trump — including Senators Jeff Flake and Dianne Feinstein — then turn around and vote for this. Last week, Flake compared Trump to Stalin. And just days later he votes to give that same Trump vast surveillance powers over Americans. Incredible. Meanwhile, Trump has been attacking Claire McCaskill left and right as she’s up for re-election… and she repays that by giving him more surviellance power and selling out the American public. Missouri voters should remember that.