U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Saturday that he will force the PATRIOT Act to expire on Sunday by refusing to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to speed up the debate on a key surveillance bill. Sen. Paul warned that he would not consent to any plans to pass either an extension of the current law or the USA Freedom Act, a reform bill passed overwhelmingly by the House earlier in May.
"So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program," Paul told POLITICO. The Senate's rules stipulate that Paul can stymie the PATRIOT Act. Meantime, reports indicate that McConnell will likely try to sidestep Paul's roadblock by moving forward on the U.S. Freedom Act. A meeting of the U.S. Senate on a Sunday is unusual and does not occur often. But The PATRIOT Act is the order for the day, and what a big order it will be.
Paul vowed on the campaign trail to repeal the PATRIOT Act if he becomes our next President, because he contends it invades Americans' privacy rights. Meantime, sources in the Senate say McConnell isn't very happy moving on to 'Solution Number Two', or, pushing for the U.S. Freedom Act, because it doesn't have the overall power and bite of the original PATRIOT Act. McConnell doesn't like the bill because it overhauls the National Security Agency's bulk data collection program. McConnell has little other choice, given the vast support within Congress for the bill, according to the POLITICO article.
I'm very skeptical about the federal government's ability to fight any verifiable terrorist threat. Sadly, right at the White House, things look like an old rerun of F Troop or Keystone Kops. It's hard to give the government the nod on renewing the PATRIOT Act when they cannot even patrol the Capitol grounds, and keep the buildings and lawns there safe for our highest-level federal leaders.
For example, on Wednesday, April 15, a 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a gyrocopter on the western portion of the U.S. Capitol lawn. He had no problem getting away with this stunt, and discussed this harebrained plan for months on a website and to The Tampa Bay Times, which he tipped off in advance. His departure was from Gettysburg, Pa., is a good 80 miles away from our nation's capital city - hardly a short trip for an air craft as simple- and slow-looking as a gyrocopter. How are we to take the PATRIOT Act seriously when the federal government allows a severe security breach like this to occur?
President Barack Obama and his national security advisors claim that if the PATRIOT Act is not renewed, it could thwart the federal government's ability to stave-off terrorist attacks. Now wait a minute here. Doug Hughes flew over Washington, D.C., in a contraption that looked even more primitive, rickety, and ridiculous than the Wright Brothers' first successful aircraft that took to the air at Kitty Hawk and you're worried about terrorists? Hughes had no intention to harm anyone, let alone commit an act of terrorism with his little gyrocopter, all he wanted to do was use the craft to deliver 535 letters strapped to the side of his gizmo, one for each member of Congress.
In recent months, there have been numerous other security breaches right at the Capitol's complexes and on its lawns. It's hard to give an exhaustive list, in fact, since there have been so many. . . . OpEdNews readers, a well-informed group, will most likely add some to the comment thread under this story that I have missed. And of course, I say: Go ahead, take me to the mat, it's all for the overall good.
Remember that group of angry protesters who were able to get within inches of 91-year-old Dr. Henry Kissinger in late January? An irate member of this protest group, CODE PINK, waved a set of handcuffs within inches of Kissinger's face while the entire Senate hearing room took on a look of cacophonous chaos, even bordering on bedlam, as CODE PINK and their allies took total control of the room.
A few days before this fiasco, an intelligence employee who lost control of his "borrowed" drone had the misfortune of seeing this nifty toy crash on the White House lawn. Phantom FC40 drone driver Shawn Usman, who works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, did not face any charges after the Jan. 26 mishap. The White House radar system designed to pick up flying objects around the White House airspace could not detect this little thing because it was just too small. And there were problems with NORAD's detection of Hughes and his gyrocopter, too, but everything is muddled up in conflicting reports that sort of leave me shaking my head in wonder.
And there's more. Much more. A 54-year-old man carrying a suspicious package scaled a White House fence April 19, and although he was quickly apprehended, Jerome R. Hunt, of Hayward, Calif., climbed the fence on the south side of the White House complex about 10:25 p.m. that Sunday night, according to Brian Leary with the United States Secret Service. Hunt was hardly posing any violent threat, but just think if an actual terrorist, with a lethal weapon, did the same sort of thing?
The Capitol grounds and its buildings are hardly secure. And securing these facilities and this property surrounding them has little to do with the PATRIOT Act. Most of these transgressors and trespassers were either incompetent at working things like drones, or were mentally unstable, or just had a big bone to pick with Uncle Sam and made the national news in splashing sensationalized weirdness - like the gyrocopter pilot, Doug Hughes.
But one case is particularly scary; and although fence-jumper Jerome R. Hunt wasn't seen as much of a threat, on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, 42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez, took an unimpeded dash for 70 yards across the front lawn of the White House before entering through the North Portico. This guy had the potential of being extremely volatile and violent. On the mad run to get into the Presidential Mansion, this runner brushed by a Secret Service officer with a drawn gun, sources tell CBS News' Bill Plante.
This happened mere minutes after President Obama and his daughters left the White House aboard Marine One on their way to Camp David, the Presidential retreat in Maryland where President Obama and his family were to spend the weekend. The White House did not respond to inquiries about whether first lady Michelle Obama was inside at the time, CBS reports. Gonzalez, an Iraq War veteran, was carrying a knife, and also had two hatchets and a machete, as well as 800 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle nearby, prosecutors said at a hearing, NBC News reported.
Did the PATRIOT Act fail in its ability to save the White House from Mr. Gonzalez? It's a moot point - like the drones, and most likely, even the gyrocopter, Mr. Gonzalez wasn't even on Uncle Sam's radar.
Now the Keystone Kops come into play: In March, two senior secret service agents were believed to be drunk when they ran a car into a White House barricade after a late-night party for retiring spokesman Ed Donovan. One of these men was a top member of President Barack Obama's protective detail, CNN reported on March 12. Not only is this an embarrassment to the secret service and the White House, just think if something dangerous, criminal, or perhaps even nefarious had occurred during the time these two nitwit agents were involved with their barricade-bashing shenanigans?