In late December, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) threatened to filibuster any legislation that included long-term reauthorization of the government’s foreign intelligence program, known as PRISM or Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Both Paul and his colleagues Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with the House Freedom Caucus had been blasting Congressional leadership for ramming through a renewal of the unconstitutional program within a short-term spending bill.
Following the filibuster threat and realizing they weren’t going to have the votes for reform proposals, leadership has decided to postpone any vote on what to do about Section 702 until January. Although the law is hanging on for dear life as a part of the continuing resolution passed before Christmas to keep the government open and funded for three weeks while Congress figures out a budget, due to the efforts of these civil libertarians, lawmakers will be forced to debate the legitimacy of the law and make suggestions for how to amend it.
Paul has warned of the intelligence community amassing unchecked power due to the law, warning “We cannot live in fear of our own intelligence community. They have such power to suck up every bit of every transmission, every communication we ever made.”
The Senator is so determined to fight warrantless surveillance that he has also placed a hold on one of President Trump’s nominees to the Justice Department due to his concerning support of Section 702 in the past. John Demer, who has been nominated to be assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s National Security Division, would have the authority to issue the FISA warrants that allow Section 702 surveillance. So even if the law were to be eventually renewed intact and attached to a spending bill, at least Paul could be reassured that there is one less government official encouraging the program.