Thursday, December 08, 2005

Congress reaches compromise on the Patriot Act and Feingold still talks about filibuster

CNN is reporting the Senate and House have reached a compromise on the compromise bill re-authorizing the un-patriotic and prima facie unconstitutional Patriot Act.

It's better than the last one. It only lets the government continue to illegally search and gag people for 4 more years instead of 10. It still lets the government search medical and library records of ordinary citizens. According to CNN's story there's one small concession to the 4th Amendment: the government will have to provide evidence to justify getting library records to a judge who can say "no".

Believe it or not that's an improvement! Under the current law there's no judicial review. The story doesn't say if the requirement for evidence applies to "roving wire-taps" or if any restraints will be put on the national security letters that are letting FBI troll through unsuspecting and innocent Americans' data.

I couldn't find new info on the Senate and House websites yet.

CNN says Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is opposed to the compromise "because it permitted the government to violate citizens' privacy rights without sufficient checks and balances."

Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is still threatening a filibuster. (Go Russ!)

"Merely sunsetting bad law is not adequate," Feingold said in a statement released after the agreement was announced. "We need to make substantive changes to the law, and without those changes I am confident there will be strong, bipartisan opposition here in the Senate."

What you can do

Let's help Senator Feingold and make sure he has strong bi-partisan support. Call or email your Senators and Congressman and remind them they're supposed to uphold the Constitution including Amendment IV.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Senators Leahy and Feingold are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For Illinioisians, Senator Dick Durbin is also on the committee and over the summer proposed amendments to protect civil liberties. As soon as I figure out who's the counterpart in the House, I'll post it.

Why it matters

The Patriot Act is gross affront to civil liberties and shouldn't be renewed under any circumstances. Nonetheless, the previous version would have made some of it permanent, and it's progress that push-back by people who haven't lost their minds have reached an agreement to keep it for only 4 more. Maybe the scandals of secret prisons and American citizens being held without charge or trial for 3 years is making the public more aware of what's at stake.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

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