Rand Paul filibuster: Presidential hopeful calls for end of NSA surveillance in 11-hour speech

'There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer'

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The Independent US

The Republican Presidential hopeful Rand Paul has called for the end of the Patriot Act in a marathon 11-hour filibuster on the Senate floor.

From just after 1pm till nearly midnight, the Kentucky Senator launched a scathing critique of US government surveillance on the American people, during which he invoked exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer," he began.

Decked out in comfortable running shoes, Paul voiced his opposition to key sections of the Patriot Act, a controversial surveillance law passed in the aftermath of 9/11 and due to expire on 1 June.

Paul, in his second major filibuster in two years, was backed by a handful Senators from both sides of the aisle who helped lighten the load.

After about two and half hours, Democrat Ron Wyden - another staunch opponent of surveillance - stood up and the Senators asked eachother questions. This happened several times throughout the filibuster, but crucially Paul did not yield the floor — which meant no other topic could be discussed.

In opposing the reauthorisation of the surveillance law, which allows the government to collect Americans' phone data, though not the content of the calls, Paul sets himself apart from most of the rest of the Republican Presidential pack, who largely support extensive intelligence operations.

He is also challenging the authority of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate's other Kentucky representative.

The traditional talking filibuster, which is rarely used anymore, is designed to delay a vote on specific legislation. 

For this reason, some commentators have claimed that Paul's speech wasn't really a filibuster as such. His protest delayed a vote on a trade deal, which now won't be voted on until the beginning of June — but it may have complicated Senator McConnell's legislative plans.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted to end bulk collection of phone data but to allow surveillance on a case-by-case basis if a special court approves; President Barack Obama supports this measure. Paul, however, says it doesn't go far enough.

Though the topic is evidently something Paul, son of libertarian cult-hero Ron Paul, cares about, it was clear that this filibuster was conceived to kickstart his run for President. In fact, he didn't even hide it — his social media accounts used the opportunity to appeal for campaign donations.

There was much activity under the hashtag #StandWithRand, which first emerged in March 2013 when Paul spent 13 filibustering CIA head John Brennan's nomination to talk about drone policy and has since been used Paul's political slogan.