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Homeland Security

Senator Rand Paul Launches Patriot Act Filibuster

by Michael Bowman May 20, 2015

A U.S. lawmaker has halted Senate proceedings by exercising his right to speak uninterrupted on the chamber floor as long as he is physically capable of doing so.

Republican Rand Paul began a "talking filibuster" Wednesday to protest any congressional attempt to renew the Patriot Act, a law enacted after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that grants the U.S. government broad powers to probe and prevent terrorist plots.

"I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged," said Paul at the beginning of what promised to be the most extensive floor remarks of any senator so far this year. "There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer."

Paul, a declared candidate for president in 2016, is an outspoken critic of the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records, a program recently ruled illegal by a federal appeals court and which ultimately could be decided by the Supreme Court unless Congress reforms it.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to keep such records in the hands of telecommunications companies unless the NSA gets a court order to review them.

That bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell favors reauthorizing the NSA program, which expires at the end of the month.

Paul strenuously objects to extending the program, and has hinted that the House-passed bill does not go far enough to rein in the government's snooping abilities.

"The bulk collection of all Americans' phone records all of the time is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution]," said Paul.

This is not Paul's first talking filibuster. In 2013, he railed for 13 consecutive hours against the government's use of drones.

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