The failure of the USA Freedom Act is a failure of Congress to protect civil liberties. This analysis, from one of its principal supporters, Senator Leahy of Vermont, is short, sweet and on point for what has needed reform since the passage of the USA Patriot Act back in October of 2001, and as amended by various renewals of sunset votes and even broader powers granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2008.
Of all the remarks made by senators who voted against it, Senator Rubio of Florida takes the cake. As quoted in the NYT, he said this bill was a “a reaction to misinformation and alarmism.” Funny, that is exactly what I thought of his vote.
This bill would have:
ENDED BULK COLLECTION OF AMERICANS’ COMMUNICATIONS RECORDS
PROTECTED AMERICANS’ COMMUNICATIONS COLLECTED UNDER THE FISA AMENDMENTS ACT
CREATED NEW AND SHORTER SUNSET PROVISIONS TO ENSURE PROPER OVERSIGHT
REFORMED THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE COURT
INCREASED TRANSPARENCY AND OVERSIGHT
Precisely the kind of reforms that both Republicans and Democrats have been calling for some time now, and most Americans, since the Snowden disclosures in 2013.
So how did the Senate miss the stitch? Because they misunderstand the quality of real courage. False courage, the kind that would suggest that these reforms are a reaction to misinformation and alarmism, is so anxious that it either ignores or forgets what fundamental principles made this country great: constitutional protections of civil rights. Those rights are easy to espouse when there is no real threat. It takes genuine courage to espouse them in the face of challenges. I do not minimize the challenges. They are real and in many cases, such as the acts of ISIS or 9/11, are horrific. There is never a more important moment to model what those principles mean, however, than times such as these.
Republicans who led the charge against this bill — with the assistance from standard-bearers from the Bush Administration brought back to whip up the hysteria — should be the first to know it. The party of Lincoln has long stood for liberty. It is unfortunate that today, in 2014, they no longer possess the courage to show it.
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