Vital portions of the Patriot Act set to expire on May 31st

In what could turn into a nasty public battle in the Senate and with the deadline fast approaching, the Patriot Act, once the holy grail of anti-terror measures is likely to expire if the Senate cannot either re-new the act or adopt the House-backed USA Freedom Act in its stead.

Intensifying a simmering air of crisis, the deeply-divided Senate is facing a splinter group led by Mike Lee (R-UT), who favors the House-backed USA Freedom Act, a slightly watered-down version of the Patriot Act, which prohibits the bulk-collection of data.  A second faction, led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY), is pushing for a complete renewal of the Patriot Act.  In their way are two unlikely allies, Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY).  Wyden, a fierce critic of the Patriot Act, has described the ordinance as a “bad law;” Paul has charged the law is an affront to civil liberties and is demanding a vote on privacy amendments.

Despite some support for the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House with bi-partisan support, Utah’s Mike Lee said:  “Our options are a lot more limited given the time constraints.  We can either let the provisions at issue expire, or we can pass the House-passed USA Freedom Act.”

Despite occasionally stretching the boundaries of congressional or executive power, the act has gleaned valuable information which has guaranteed the safety of our citizens and the security of our nation.

To members of Congress who oppose the renewal, their despairing message is straightforward:  The Patriot Act is an insidiously corrupting program, which enables the prying eyes and ears of the federal government run riot upon civil liberties without bearing any shame.

For supporters of the measure, the Patriot Act is a remarkably successful code of legal practices which fully equal those embodied in formal justice.

While both are fair arguments, the putative replacement, the USA Freedom Act, is likely a craftily re-written version of the Patriot Act under a different name on which the Senate still cannot agree.