Thursday, December 08, 2005

Republicans Trying to Push Through Patriot Act Extension

House and Senate Republicans today approved a plan to extend the Patriot Act, with its most controversial provisions included, and very few safeguards to protect civil liberties.

Important parts involve the ability of law enforcement officials to gain access to a wealth of personal data, including library records, as part of investigations into suspected terrorist activity.

The measure provides a four-year extension of the government's ability to conduct roving wiretaps - which may involve multiple phones -- and to seek access to many of the personal records covered by the bill.

Also extended for four years is the power to wiretap "lone wolf" terrorists who may operate on their own, without control from a foreign agent or power.

White House officials signaled their satisfaction, and Specter, R-Pa., has credited Vice President Dick Cheney with intervening this week to help bring the House and Senate together.

This was apparently a compromise plan to try to get Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to drop his opposition to the extension. But Leahy is still not happy.

...Leahy...said Thursday that he would not support a four-year renewal unless it included substantial reforms. Sixteen portions of the massive law, including ones relating to electronic and Internet surveillance, expire on Dec. 31.

"This is too important to the American people to rush through a flawed bill to meet some deadline that we have the ability to extend," Leahy said. He and other Democrats, including Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and John Rockefeller of West Virginia, said in a letter Thursday that they would back a brief, three-month extension instead.

A bipartisan group of six senators have criticized the Bush administration-backed plan on the grounds that the lack of minimal provisions to safeguard civil liberties threatens to torpedo the passage of the extension past Dec. 31, which is when the Patriot Act most controversial provisions expire, if not renewed before then.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), who was the sole vote against the original Patriot Act, is one of the six; he says he will filibuster any attempt to pass the current measure without changes to protect civil liberties.

"I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms."

This guy is looking more and more presidential all the time.

Bill Frist had a different opinion: "We should unite in a bipartisan way to support the Patriot Act, to stand up for temporary safety, and against essential liberties."

Ooops, mistake there; I conflated him with Benjamin Franklin. Here's what Frist actually said:

"We should unite in a bipartisan way to support the Patriot Act, to stand up for freedom, and against terror."

But you know he speaks with forked tongue, because freedom is not the opposite of terror. Safety is the opposite of terror. Freedom is what Bill Frist and his masters in the White House are willing to sacrifice to get the illusion of safety, which is what they feel they need to retain their power.

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