WASHINGTON — In an exceedingly rare Sunday evening session, the Senate moved toward altering the Patriot Act, but sections of the law still expired at midnight. Here are the key paragraphs from the New York Times on what that means:
The expiration of three key provisions of the Patriot Act means that, for now, the N.S.A. will no longer collect newly created logs of Americans’ phone calls in bulk. It also means that the F.B.I. cannot invoke the Patriot Act to obtain, for new investigations, wiretap orders that follow a suspect who 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.
However, the Justice Department may invoke a so-called grandfather clause to keep using those powers for investigations that had started before June 1, and there are additional workarounds investigators may use to overcome the lapse in the authorizations.
Unlike the pre-Memorial Day stalemate, the Senate did advance a procedural motion on a House-passed bill that would get the government out of bulk call data collection. Georgia Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue were among 20 senators who changed their minds over the recess and voted to proceed to the House bill.
The difference was the playing field: Before Memorial Day, Perdue and Isakson had a choice between the House’s USA Freedom Act and extending the Patriot Act as is, and they chose the latter. Both votes failed.
Sunday night, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell only put the House bill up as a chance to move toward restoration of at least some of the Patriot Act authorities.
Said Isakson spokeswoman Amanda Maddox:
“While Senator Isakson still has serious concerns about the USA Freedom Act and wants to see improvements, he has even more serious concerns about allowing intelligence authorities that are vital to our national security to expire completely.”
Perdue, according to a spokeswoman, had similar thinking and is looking for opportunities to strengthen the bill through amendments. McConnell will limit that process, though, to block Sen. Rand Paul — who has managed to irritate nearly all of his colleagues with procedural delays — from offering his amendments.
The Senate is back at noon to resume work on the bill. If they amend it, which seems likely, it would go back to the House.
Atlanta Journal Constitution