Tuesday, April 05, 2005

ALBERTO GONZALES revealing his secret ambition to be the next Marlon Brando:

...Gonzales, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, strongly defended the administration's use of the terror-fighting law and warned that any effort to dismantle it would be tantamount to "unilateral disarmament" in fighting terrorism.

Unilateral disarmament? You mean, if the government can't slap gag orders on librarians, the barbarians will storm the gates? Come ON now. Is Congress actually going to fall for this?

"The act has been integral to the government's prosecution of the war on terrorism," Gonzales said. ". . . Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups still pose a grave threat to the security of the American people, and now is not the time to relinquish some of our most effective tools in this fight."

Of course not. Now is never the time for government authorities to give up broad police powers. It never has been. Can anyone imagine Alberto Gonzales telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that the time has come for the government to give up the power to get search warrants in secret or try detainees in military courts hidden from the public?

Even when they admit they don't need to spy on Americans, they still want to be able to do so, with no accountability:

Authorities have obtained information under the controversial business records provision 35 times, including driver's license records, credit card records, Internet subscriber records and hotel and apartment records, officials said. Gonzales said the provision has not been used to obtain records from medical providers, gun shops, bookstores or libraries, although he said the administration would oppose any attempt to exempt such categories.

"The department has no interest in rummaging through the library records or the medical records of Americans," Gonzales testified. "We do have an interest, however, in records that may help us capture terrorists. And there may be an occasion where having the tools . . . to access this kind of information may be very helpful."

I expect nothing but craven obeisance from Congress on this. However, there is hope in the form of what is being called an "unlikely coalition" between conservative libertarians, gun enthusiasts, and some Republicans such as former congressman Bob Barr.

Barr voted for the law, known as the USA Patriot Act, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, but has become one of its leading critics, a shift that reflects the growing unease among some conservative libertarians over the expansion of the government's powers in fighting terrorism.

He joined with other conservatives as well as the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday in announcing the creation of the new coalition, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, aimed at curtailing some of the law's more sweeping law-enforcement provisions.

The sections of the law that are of concern are Sections 213, 215, 218, 505, and 802. The full text of the Patriot Act is here.

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