Friday, March 03, 2006

Patriot Act: Virtues of Politics

Wall Street Journal commentary ($$):
"So what was all the fuss about anyway? After literally years of acrimonious debate, a bipartisan filibuster, two temporary extensions, and a Presidential election that turned in part on this supposed executive branch power grab, the 16 expiring provisions of the Patriot Act were renewed by the Senate yesterday by a landslide vote of 89-10.

That's nine more Senators than voted against it the first time around, but it hardly qualifies as a strong statement of dissent. Roughly the same law also passed in 2001 with huge bipartisan majorities -- 357-66 in the House and 98-1 in the Senate. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Members of Congress believed that the Patriot Act provided reasonable protection of Americans' civil liberties. Its most important contribution was to tear down the 'wall' separating law enforcement from intelligence gathering.

Wisconsin Democrat Russell Feingold, the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, called the changes to the bill that passed yesterday cosmetic, and he's right. Section 215, the famous 'library provision,' is still there, though businesses that have their records inspected can now challenge the gag order in court after one year (and the FBI director or Attorney General can still halt disclosure). GOP Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire is advertising this as a great civil-liberties victory. Whatever."

Watch what they do, not what they say, eh?

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