A revised version of the Patriot Act, called the USA Freedom Act, has been signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The USA Freedom Act won easy approval in the Senate, which was brought to a standstill by Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate and long-time opponent of the Patriot Act’s authorization of broad surveillance techniques.
Neither senator from Nebraska supported the revised measure.
Sen. Deb Fischer says she understands Congress struggled to balance competing concerns.
“You know, I think we always have to reach that balance between privacy concerns and our security and that’s a fine line that we have to walk,” Fischer tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln, on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Paul held up work on the legislation, tying up the Senate long enough for key provisions of the Patriot Act to expire. The revised bill ends the bulk collection of data, in particular telephone records, by the National Security Agency. The NSA will be forced to get any information it might want from the telecom companies.
Fischer says the new arrangement disburses records among hundreds of workers at the telecoms and makes it more difficult for spy agencies to connect the dots and stop the terrorists.
Fischer claims under the new bill, privacy will be blurred and national security weakened.
“So, we always have to be on our guard about privacy,” Fischer says. “But, I think people, possibly, did not understand all the parts of the Patriot Act and how those connections are made in order to keep this country safe.”
The Senate approved the USA Freedom Act 67-32, with two of the 32 votes in opposition coming from Nebraska senators.
Sen. Ben Sasse issued a written statement after voting against the USA Freedom Act:
“I am disappointed that Congress made it harder for our intelligence community to defend Nebraskans. Our fight against jihadi terror will take decades and in the coming years Washington will regret gutting the Patriot Act. We reached this crossroads because Washington’s dysfunction bred national distrust. I am committed to both improving national security and restoring the public’s trust by speaking bluntly about securing our freedom from evolving threats.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]