Tom Cotton was instrumental in saving some of Iraq’s most precious feline assets, but that’s about the only nice thing I can say about Sen. Tom Cotton today.
Last week, a measure called the USA Freedom Act, designed to curb the NSA’s massive, unchecked surveillance and data collection capabilities, passed the House. This week, conservative Republican Sen. Mike Lee was attempting to usher the same bill through the Senate ahead of the body’s vote on the PATRIOT Act, so that the PATRIOT Act would not reauthorize the unsupervised, secret collection and storage of Americans’ cell phone metadata. Although the program has proven so unwieldy and ineffective that the NSA claims it was going to stop the program even before Edward Snowden revealed it in his massive classified information leak, and the parameters of the program are likely violative of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, there are several Senators, led by Sen. Tom Cotton, who are blocking the USA Freedom Act, so that the NSA retains their power…just in case, I suppose, the program suddenly (and miraculously) starts to work.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) blocked a move from Republican colleague Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Tuesday to bring up the House-passed USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices.
Lee took to the Senate floor to try and set aside fast-track trade legislation currently being debated and move to the NSA reform bill.
“We’ve had a week since the House passed this bill and it’s time we took it up in earnest and gave it the full attention and consideration of the Senate that it deserves,” Lee said. “Then we can return to [trade promotion authority] and finish it without facing expiration of a key national security tool without anything to put in its place.”
Lee needed unanimous consent to bring up the surveillance reform bill, but Cotton objected to the move.
Senators are facing a looming deadline, with key provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire on June 1.
Cotton prefers to pass a “clean” extension of the PATRIOT Act, without reconsideration of the executive authorities contained within. Like John McCain before him, Cotton is mostly concerned that any dial down of the NSA’s collection and surveillance powers will have a detrimental effect on America’s ability to detect terrorism, even if that detection snags more innocent citizens than actual terrorists.
Obviously, I have strong feelings on the subject, which I’m sure the comments section will not share because this is the Spectator. I will leave you with one thought, however, aside from the fact that I am writing this from an airplane headed to a tropical destination where rum is very available so your comments are merely sticks and stones: regardless of how you feel about the importance of data collection – and there is no doub that the NSA’s surveillance surves a purpose in detecting and combating both domestic and foreign terror – where the question of security is concerned, and their privacy is very likely violated, the American people deserve to make the decision whether the privacy violation is worth the security gained. Right now, we don’t have that luxury.
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