Scaremongering About the Patriot Act Sunset

By Jameel Jaffer

In a last-ditch effort to scare lawmakers into preserving unpopular and much-abused surveillance authorities, the Senate Republican leadership and some intelligence officials are warning that allowing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset would compromise national security. (One particularly crass example from Senator Lindsey Graham: “Anyone who neuters this program is going to be partially responsible for the next attack.”) Some media organizations have published these warnings without challenging them, which is unfortunate. The claim that the expiration of Section 215 would deprive the government of necessary investigative tools or compromise national security is entirely without support.

First, there’s no evidence that the call-records program is effective in any meaningful sense of the word. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which reviewed classified files, “could not identify a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.” The President’s Review Group, which also reviewed classified files, determined that the call-records program had “not [been] essential to preventing attacks,” and that, to the extent the program had contributed to terrorism investigations, the records in question “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner” using targeted demands. Although government once made far grander claims to the FISA court, the strongest claim that leaders of the intelligence community now make in support of the call-records program is that it provides “peace of mind.” Whatever this claim means—peace of mind to whom?—it’s not a claim that the program is necessary.

Second, there’s no evidence that other forms of collection under Section 215 have been any more effective. If intelligence officials could cite instances in which collection under Section 215 had been crucial to terrorism investigations, you can be sure they would have cited them by now. They certainly would have cited them to the Justice Department’s Inspector General, but a report by the Inspector General released this past week states that FBI personnel were “unable to identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained through use of Section 215 orders.” FBI personnel didn’t say that collection under Section 215 had been entirely useless—they said it had been useful in corroborating information already in their possession, for example—but they certainly didn’t say, or even come close to saying, that the expiration of Section 215 would compromise national security.

Third, the sunset of Section 215 wouldn’t affect the government’s ability to conduct targeted investigations of terrorist threats. This is because the government has many other tools that allow it to collect the same kinds of things that it can collect under Section 215. It can use administrative subpoenas or grand jury subpoenas. It can use pen registers. It can use national security letters. It can use orders served under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. If Section 215 sunsets, it can use the provision that Section 215 amended, which will allow it to collect business records of hotels, motels, car and truck rental agencies, and storage rental facilities.

The sunset of Section 215 would undoubtedly be a significant political loss for the intelligence community, and it would be a sensible first step towards broader reform of the surveillance laws, but there’s no support for the argument that the sunset of Section 215 would compromise national security. Against this background, it’s not surprising the FBI Director reacted the way he did to a question about the possible sunset of Section 215. “I don’t like losing any tool in our toolbox,” Comey said, “but if we do, we press on.”


© 2015 Just Security

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  1. Alice X
    May 24, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Much of politics is the rational use of irrational symbols.

    Michael Parenti,

    and paraphrasing:

    Fascism is the final act in ending the class struggle.


    …bipartisan reactionary war policy would eventually lead to outright fascism in the United States itself.

    The Cold War would lead to a century of fear.

    Henry Wallace


    Metanoia Films

    The Power Principle

  2. May 24, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Lindsey Graham is the worst. I would love to meet the two people who are excited to hear he is running.

  3. sisterlauren
    May 24, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    He is a part of their conspiracy to commit torture.

    He should be indicted for treason, torture and war crimes. He is not the only one but he most definitely is one of the leaders.

  4. sisterlauren
    May 24, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Nuclear holocaust?

    Maybe folks were not aware of the FACT that the US – and it’s ‘allies’ – have been using ‘depleted’ uranium in their war munitions as a way of getting rid of their stockpile of nuclear wastes. You all might want to check into it.

  5. sisterlauren
    May 24, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Oversight, like when I informed my US Senator, Dianne Feinstein, that I had a religious solution to the war in Iraq, and then I was threatened by a Blackwater helicopter with the guy in the back seat pointing a big, fat military gun at my head?

  6. sisterlauren
    May 24, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    “Foreign Policy blunderers” … look up how much Dianne Feinstein’s husband has made in military procurements.

    The war on Islam has made their Jewish family rich, rich, RICH!

  7. Shutter
    May 24, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Parenti is one of my favorites routinely buried by the mainstream press. He’s so far under the radar he makes Chomsky look like an altar boy to the media.

  8. bluewombat
    May 24, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Miss Lindsey says, “Anyone who neuters this program is going to be partially responsible for the next attack.”

    You know what I say? If, as looks increasingly likely, we prevail on sunsetting Section 215 of the Unpatriotic Act (DO CALL YOUR SENATORS, BOYS AND GIRLS, AND TELL THEM THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT), the next attack will probably be a false-flag operation from those who want to re-impose Section 215 on us.

  9. didactic1
    May 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Richard Blum also has significant influence over UC Berkeley where he sits on the board and keeps the fed contracts for war and intelligence flowing so he and Dianne can continue to be one of the power couples of America. Most people know more about Beyonce and JayZ than the Blum/Feinstein Throne.

  10. sisterlauren
    May 25, 2015 at 10:09 am

    The news industry covers up for them big time. It is a very close and tight knit conspiracy to commit mass murder.

  11. sisterlauren
    May 25, 2015 at 10:36 am

    If he sits on the UC Berkley board and the dust from the demolitions of the WTC buildings that were destroyed on 9/11 and analyzed at UC Davis, shows unmistakeable signatures of fission and fusion products that could ONLY be there if 9/11 was a nuclear event, do you think he would be an active part of the cover up of that fact? Or do you think he is more of a passive part of it, like he is somehow ignorant of it or something?

    When we take a closer look at how those towers were destroyed, then it seems like people in positions like his would have HAD to have been an integral part of it, or at the very least know all about what information would have to be kept away from the public.

    Linsey Graham talking about the threat they are under is something I have to keep comparing in my mind with his support of torture and with the fact that not only were the WTC towers destroyed by our own government, but they also used very sophisticated military grade explosives to do it with. People like Feinstein and her beloved Blum MUST know all about it. I just can’t see how they couldn’t or wouldn’t have. She’s on the committee that over sees it.

    Now if torture were useful at extracting what they know, I might almost be tempted myself to try it on them. But I do not think it is the least bit helpful. I think we can find out all about their crimes without their help or their tortured confessions. The NSA sure has been useful to them in keeping it all a super tight cover up.

    I wonder if their crimes will be more apparent to the public when the press does not have to worry so much about being spied on by the NSA. Hopefully the press will stand up to them now and start to investigate the Feinstein/Blum family fortune. I know they were rich and now they are famously wealthy. Too bad our press gives them a free pass on everything, because they are about as evil as it gets.

    What kind of pull do you think he has at UC Davis?

  12. didactic1
    May 25, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I think he and Dianne are aware of every major intel related project at UC, CAL TECH and Stanford.

  13. didactic1
    May 26, 2015 at 5:45 am

    Dianne Feinstein I just learned was one of a dozen Dem Senators who saved Obama’s nefarious TPP corporate trade bill in the Senate. The bill was almost dead, but no doubt the young geniuses of Silicon made Richard and Dianne an “offer they couldnt refuse”!

  14. sisterlauren
    May 26, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Support of the TPP is a sign that they are traitors. She should be indicted for treason. How do we do that? No seriously, how?

    I just got a solicitation from ASA* the other day and it pissed me off because when I went to them for help they said they don’t do that.

    *Americans for Safe Access is a legal/lobbying group working to get safe access for pot for Americans. They do NOT defend potheads in family issues, so a conspiracy to torture me and ethnic cleansing were NOT issues they were interested in pursuing.

    It pissed me off, here was another pot lawyer telling me that my rights didn’t mean shit. They had NO interest in defending my freedom of religion. They already knew that I didn’t have it.

    Would that piss you off or make you want to give them more money? I thought of writing and telling them, but I think this will do it. When I write my book there is going to be a whole chapter about ASA. I felt like they really screwed me over.

  15. sisterlauren
    May 26, 2015 at 9:47 am

    My ex has a part time teaching position at US Davis.

  16. didactic1
    May 26, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I hope he is teaching positive values to the students.

  17. didactic1
    May 26, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I think Senators are immune from anything they do as Senators. Of course her main activity is Feinstein/Blum, INC., but these Senators are quite good at masking all their conflicts of interest. Chuck Schumer is another fellow who uses the Senate to make the US a banker friendly place.

  18. sisterlauren
    May 26, 2015 at 11:12 am

    They are not immune from the International Criminal Court. If the US fails to hold it’s own criminals accountable then people in other countries can take the case to the ICC if it is grave enough and if they are parties to the court which many countries are. The US can’t completely duck the international court. There is a way.

    The other countries don’t do it because all of the leaders have been in cahoots. This is why exposing the crimes of 9/11 is so critical, it blows the guilty parties credibility right out of the water. If Hillary Clinton is explaining what she did and did not do regarding 9/11, then she is not going to be any kind of a “shoe in.”

    Apparently the Democrats want to ignore this and the Republicans are trying to figure out how to use it without exposing themselves. Both of the parties are extremely vulnerable, this is another reason why the Tea Party keeps being so successful.

  19. sisterlauren
    May 26, 2015 at 11:14 am

    He teaches Geology.

  20. didactic1
    May 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Does he frack?

  21. didactic1
    May 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    I wish you were right. I’m not as hopeful as you. It’s why you are a role model.

  22. sisterlauren
    May 27, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Wow, thanks.

  23. sisterlauren
    May 27, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    He mapped the Marcellus shale oil deposits. He looks at sonar pictures to see the underground geological structures.

    I was hearing about fracking years before most people had ever heard of it so when Cheney started promoting it, I was very, very alarmed. I knew what it would do to the air and water. I thought green energy and getting off of coal, oil and nuclear was the answer. His company was making money working on building a new nuke and mapping oil deposits, so it was a clear conflict of interest. He only teaches for a week or two in the summer time, the rest of the time he is a consultant.

    He went to a professional meeting in 2005 and came back positively poisonous. I’d like to know a lot more about that like what happened there. Apparently people were talking to him about me … ? Or what? I don’t know. When a loving husband turns into a real monster, you kind of have to wonder about what is motivating it.

  24. didactic1
    May 27, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    It seems he is poisoning little children. I would like to meet him. I would ask him to stop. If he feels he has to kill someone, he can kill me. I would gladly give up my lif e to save the many children he will kill unless he is stopped.

  25. sisterlauren
    May 28, 2015 at 11:05 am

    He is not poisoning little children, I don’t know where you got that idea. His students are all graduating from college. I told him to make sure they were all 21 before he bought them any drinks so that he doesn’t ever get in any trouble. They are grown ups and Jeff is one of the most gentlemanly people I have ever known. You are getting a very wrong idea about him.

    If you really want to help me with Jeff, get Warren Haynes of Govt Mule to tell Jeff that yes, he really did come to our house (with a wingman from the Allman Brothers ) and looked at the bumperstickers on the back of my car. It was a van parked in the street.

    I was sick and I saw them out the bedroom window. I looked like crap. They saw me, he looked really disappointed and they walked away up the street. End of story.

    Jeff said he would NEVER believe that story until Warren Haynes tells it to him himself.

    I think Warren, by visiting my house where I did see him, did me the big disservice of making a liar out of me to my husband. I think the least he can do to make up for it is to fess up to Jeff about it and thus make me a truth teller. I think he owes it to me. He doesn’t have to do it in person, he could send him a letter. I can send you his address or forward it from here.

    You are the second person I have asked to do this for me, I know that eventually somebody will. Jeff is actually a very nice guy. Warren Haynes should have no problem admitting to him that he was curious enough about what I was saying to come by our house and look me up.

    I would have been thrilled and invited him in except I was sick in bed and my house was an absolute mess. We had fired the Boy Scout who built it all wrong and I wrapped the house in plastic in order to make it through the winter. It is hard to describe, but it felt like living in a tent or a makeshift shelter. It was a mess and it would have been very embarrassing to have guests.

    It really shocked me to see them, I had a very hard time understanding why they would visit. I have a feeling my husband thought it was because I had given them the idea I was available … it is hard for me to understand why else it would have made him so very angry.

  26. didactic1
    May 28, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    If he’s involved in fracking he is poisoning children. If he is not fracking, but just describing layers or ages of rocks, then he’s harmless.

    There are lots of nice people who live near me.

    They give their kids good education and summer camps. They live in safe areas and volunteer for food banks.But for 40-60 hrs a week they drive to NSA or to Johns Hopkins’ Advance Physics Lab (one of the largest defense and CIA contractors in the world, a ‘nonprofit’, ha ha)where they design weapons of mass destruction for the US, Israel, and clients of the US in Asia and Africa. They are also fooling with climate and putting laser weapons into orbit.

    They make people around here disappear if they are perceived as knowing too much. The euphemism is “he was transferred”. I wonder how they’ll explain my disappearance? “He moved to Israel?”

    That would be funny. Sort of.

    They are leaders of our community. I think they are war criminals. They are just “trying to make a living” or “following orders” from an elected government.

    They would have made poison gas for Hitler. Some make bio weapons for Obama and make smaller and easier to hide nuclear weapons. You should ask them about 9/11.