The Corner

Let Your Metadata Go Wild This Morning!

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Uncle Sam Isn’t Watching. Let Your Meta-Data Go Wild This Morning!

Welcome to a Patriot Act-less world.

The National Security Agency officially shut down the bulk metadata collection program officially at 7:44 p.m. Sunday night, a senior government official told CNN’s Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown. Officials had previously indicated they would shut the program down around 8 p.m. to ensure all procedures were in place before the midnight deadline.

The biggest and most controversial is the government’s sweeping powers under Section 215 that allow the NSA to collect telephone metadata on millions of Americans and store that data for five years. That is, for the time being, gone.

Law enforcement officials also won’t be allowed to get a roving wiretap to track terror suspects who frequently change communications devices, like phones. Instead, they will need to get individual warrants for each new device.

And third, the government loses a legal provision allowing it to use national security tools against “lone wolf” terror suspects if officials can’t find a connection to a foreign terror group such as ISIS, for example. But that provision has never been used, the Justice Department confirmed.

But it won’t last:

In truth, Mr. Paul’s stand only delayed passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would curtail the government’s dragnet authority, however insufficiently from Mr. Paul’s perspective. A single senator’s objection can stretch out the parliamentary hurdles faced by legislation but, with enough time, cannot derail it.

This debate just wouldn’t be complete without an accusation of sinister motives, now would it?

“People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me,” Rand Paul said, casting himself as a victim of the political elites.

How far does that apple fall from the tree again?

Having said that, I keep hearing defenders of the NSA program say it’s never been abused, and that simply isn’t true.

CIA Director John Brennan, yesterday: “These are very important authorities that have not been abused by the government.”

That is just not true, and it’s unnerving that these guys conveniently forget the instances of abuse, even if they’re isolated cases or considered “small time”:

The National Security Agency’s internal watchdog detailed a dozen instances in the past decade in which its employees intentionally misused the agency’s surveillance power, in some cases to snoop on their love interests.

A letter from the NSA’s inspector general responding to a request by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, lists the dozen incidents where the NSA’s foreign intelligence collection systems were abused. The letter also says there are two additional incidents now under investigation and another allegation pending that may require an investigation.

Back on May 27, I pointed out how Rand Paul moved from filibustering on an issue that united the GOP to filibustering on an issue that divides the GOP – and leaves him standing alone in the Republican field on this issue.

Trimmed from that piece for space:

Robert Deitz, who served as general counsel at the NSA from 1998 to 2006, contends that Paul’s stance, contending the Patriot Act and NSA programs offer no significant security benefit, vastly oversimplifies the issue and may ultimately harm the cause he seeks to defend.

“What concerns me is not the end of bulk collection, per se.  What concerns me is that if our defenses are weakened and something bad occurs, then I fear the inevitable over-reaction,” Deitz says. “One sometimes hears politicians– including President Obama and others like the ACLU say that there is no trade-off between security and civil liberties.  Bulls***. Of course there is.”

A recent op-ed by Paul was titled, “The Patriot Act provides no security at the cost of our liberty.”

“The issue is NOT whether there is a trade-off,” Deitz continues. “The question that we must ask – and every generation must decide this for itself – is where on the spectrum one wants to be.”

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