Friday, December 09, 2005

Patriot "balancing" act - little progress




The House and Senate reached agreement yesterday over the controversial extension of 16 Patriot Act clauses set to expire by the end of the year, due to the "sunset" clauses.

In a process which dealt Democrats out of the decision making, there's little to cheer over; librarians, however, might be feeling a bit better knowing it's no longer possible for the FBI to access patrons' records carte blanche. Instead, all requests for business and library records must be reviewed by a judge.

The only other positive outcome is in new sunset terms for the 16 provisions; wrangling was fierce over the proposed limit for these controversial clauses, and the House called for a ten year term. The Senate preferred a four year cut-off, and won that battle.

Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat and the only senator to vote against the original Patriot Act in 2001, called the agreement "a major disappointment" and promised to do "everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report."

"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."


http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/08/patriot.act/index.html

As we move away from 9/11 and common sense increasingly begins to replace fear and panic, the public will likely judge harshly the (unfortunately powerful) handful of legislators who continue to press for expanded power and decreases in citizens' civil liberties. After all, they begin to appear as they truly are: blatantly abusive attempts to concentrate power in the hands of the few against the will of the many.
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