HH: So pleased to welcome back the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senator McConnell, welcome, it’s great to have you on, Mr. Leader.
MM: Hey, Hugh, glad to be with you.
HH: Now let’s begin by talking about the sunset of the Patriot Act and the passage of the USA Freedom Act. I was disappointed. I thought you had the high ground. I wanted the straight reauthorization. Is the country less safe today than it was a week ago?
MM: Yeah, I think so. There were pretty broad differences of opinion. My view was that there’d been a lot of misrepresentation, and certainly misunderstanding about what the Patriot Act did with regard to what’s called bulk data collection. And I always started the debate by saying look, nobody’s listening to your phone calls. So nobody’s interested in you calling your mother on Mother’s Day. What did happen under the previous law was the NSA was able to look at the information that does not belong to each of us individually anyway, which is our phone bills, even without names, and look for patterns of calls between Americans and identified foreign terrorists overseas. Only after that was established did they then have an opportunity to go to what’s called the FISA court, which is a special court of federal judges. And they have to convince them that there’s enough evidence here to actually listen in to the calls. So I thought the safeguards were in place. There was not a single example of abuse of the system. But the House passed a modified version of the Patriot Act that in my view essentially ends the bulk data collection program. I think that’s giving up a tool in the toolkit. It’s not giving up every tool we’ve got, but it certainly gave up, I think, an important tool. But look, the majority rules. And I didn’t have the votes for an extension of the Patriot Act, and the President signed the modification, and we move on. Continue Reading