Now can somebody who is up-to-speed on all of this please tell me what this means in practice?

Dan Roberts, Ben Jacobs, and Spencer Ackerman: Patriot Act to Lapse at Midnight as Senate Fails to Agree on NSA Reform: “Maverick Republican senator Rand Paul forced at least a temporary shutdown of sweeping US surveillance powers…

…on Sunday night after refusing to allow an accelerated vote on compromise legislation designed to more narrowly restrain the National Security Agency. In a double blow for Washington security hawks, represented by embattled Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, it now looks likely that Congress will have to wait several days before passing that bill, the USA Freedom Act. The reform legislation, which bans the NSA from collecting bulk telephone records, was initially opposed by McConnell. But with the clock ticking down toward the midnight expiration of broader powers initially granted after 9/11 under the Patriot Act, Republican leaders had few options but to get behind the bill as the best way of preserving other surveillance authority. ‘This is now the only realistic way forward,’ said McConnell…. McConnell’s concession was a tacit acknowledgement that the bulk collection of US phone records exposed in June 2013 by the Guardian, thanks to leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden, will end….
McConnell attempted to seek a temporary extension for additional Patriot Act powers to be affected by the expiration of powers unrelated to the NSA’s bulk domestic phone metadata program — including so-called ‘lone-wolf’ and ‘roving wiretap’ capabilities. But even a temporary continuation of those surveillance authorities were opposed by Paul, who has the power to block such attempts to speed up Senate business by seeking unanimous consent. Now, not only will the NSA domestic surveillance program shut down, so will three provisions of the Patriot Act that have long been the bane of privacy advocates — particularly the ‘business records’ provision that the FBI has used to amass what a recent Justice Department report described as ‘large collections’ of Americans’ internet data….
A Justice Department inspector general report found that the FBI had come to use the business-records provision to amass ’large collections’ of Americans’ communications data. It noted that the spread of internet access had lead to an explosion in information accessible to the FBI, and cast doubt on Justice Department and congressional assurances that the authority, known as Section 215, is critical for counterterrorism.
[T]he agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information….
This time, Snowden’s revelations pierced the veneer of government secrecy and ushered in perhaps the most open debate about surveillance powers in the NSA’s 63-year history.

Originally published at