Rand Paul threatens to filibuster extension of warrantless surveillance

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questions Secretary of State John Kerry about State Department spending, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday that he will filibuster any long-term extension of Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act.

Current FISA regulations allow the FBI to conduct “backdoor” searches of American communications with foreign targets under suspicion without a warrant. This power granted under Section 702  is set to expire at the end of this year.

“I will actively oppose and filibuster any long term extension of warrantless searches of American citizens,” Paul tweeted.

On Tuesday, the senator was joined in his opposition to long-term reauthorization by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). The senators hosted a bipartisan press conference denouncing FISA with Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.).

Paul and Lee both promised to vote “no” on any spending bill that reauthorizes warrantless government surveillance.

“I absolutely oppose permanent reauthorization,” Paul said. “Any reauthorization has to be paired with more oversight, not less.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and FreedomWorks also attended the press conference, both calling for an end to backdoor governmental spying.

Paul and Lee instead argue that Congress should have more time to debate the law, slamming any attempt by Congressional leadership to add long-term reauthorization to an end of year spending bill.

On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee released a draft bill of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act. On Wednesday, Rep. Justin Amash introduced an amendment to the bill that would replace the standalone reauthorization with the USA Rights Act, a reform bill introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that Amash and 9 of his colleagues had previously co-sponsored.

“This bill is an eleventh-hour attempt to sneak an unchecked warrantless surveillance program through Congress,” Wyden said on Wednesday morning, calling the legislation a “step backward[s]” for American privacy rights.

Congressional funding for the government ends on Dec. 22.

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