The Senate allowed the Patriot Act to expire Sunday after opposition, led by Rand Paul, derailed the efforts of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to renew the act and endorse the NSA’s mass metadata collection efforts. The chamber did, however, vote 77-17 to take up the House-passed USA Freedom Act, which would revise the Patriot Act to specifically prohibit the NSA’s domestic spying program — a program ruled illegal by a federal court. Unfortunately, congressional efficiency being what it is, leadership waited too late to bring either bill up for debate, almost ensuring unnecessary drama. That means the good of the Patriot Act was thrown out with the bad. Yet as Reuters reports, “Intelligence experts say a lapse of only a few days would have little immediate effect. The government is allowed to continue collecting information related to any foreign intelligence investigation that began before the deadline.” Fighting terrorists is critical, but collecting data from every American to create the proverbial haystack doesn’t strike us as an efficient or trustworthy way to go about doing that. And it’s time Congress took its national security responsibly more seriously than leaving important work to the last minute.
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