On Sunday, key intelligence gathering provisions of the Patriot Act, set to expire at midnight, were not extended by the U.S. Senate in an 11th hour vote that took place just a week after the fate of the program was left hanging after resistance, largely organized by [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ], prevented a consensus.
However, the Senate did vote by a large margin to move forward on the USA Freedom Act. With a 77-17 vote, the bill will move forward for a final vote to take place as early as Tuesday, but which may go past that if Paul has anything to do with it. The bill has already passed the House. The intelligence provisions at the center of the debate, dubbed the ‘domestic spying program” by many, were pitched as absolutely essential to the war on terror by leadership in both parties as well as by President Obama, who urged passage of the Act. They have been under heavy fire from the more libertarian elements of the party.
Sunday’s last minute vote was called by Senate Majority Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ]. Senator Paul and his allies succeeded in preventing any short term extension of the program while debate on the Freedom Act continues. That means that tonight, beginning at midnight D.C. time, the NSA will no longer have the ability to act on the expired provisions, until such time as the Freedom Act is ultimately passed. Or not. There will be no “database queries’ or “dragnets” for the time being.
The NSA began the process of shutting down at 4pm ET Sunday afternoon. If and when the program is rejoined, it will take up to 24 hours to be up and running.