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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Friday, November 18, 2005

Christmas So Soon?

Christmas So Soon?

[UPDATE] Senator Feingold has informed us that Frist has given up on ramming this thing through before the holiday break. It will now receive a proper debate in December. Go, Russ!

Headlines don't come any better than this:

Extension of Patriot Act Faces Threat of Filibuster

A tentative deal to extend the government's antiterrorism powers under the law known as the USA Patriot Act appeared in some jeopardy Thursday...

"This is worth the fight," Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview.

"I've cleared my schedule right up to Thanksgiving," Mr. Feingold said, adding that he was making plans to read aloud from the Bill of Rights as part of a filibuster if necessary.

It's enough to turn one religious, I tell ya what.

With a tentative deal in place on Wednesday, Congressional negotiators had been expected to reach a final, printed agreement by early Thursday for the full House and Senate to consider. But despite minute-by-minute updates about a possible conclusion, the day passed on with no final agreement, causing no shortage of nervousness among Bush administration officials and Republican supporters of the tentative deal.

By Thursday evening, officials said negotiators had reached what amounted to an impasse for the day, as those from the Senate pushed for further civil rights safeguards that were seen as unacceptable to House leaders.

Well, the house leaders can go Cheney themselves. This is America; we practically invented civil rights. How dare they imply that the ability of the government to monitor its citizens is more important than civil liberties? It's especially galling given the (R) penchant for pinning the whole of the Iraq debacle on the promise of freedom; protecting ours, extending new freedoms to Iraqis, etc. And it is especially galling, given the identities of the House Leadership: Roy Blunt, Delay's replacement and protege, close associate of Jack Abramoff, and Dennis Hastert, also embroiled in Abramoff's web.

Even if this development only postpones the vote, it's a good thing. The Senate breaks for Thanksgiving in roughly a week; there's a good possiblity this might not get addressed before then, especially if they keep trying to find some compromise on the specifics.

I, for one, am doing the snoopy dance right about now. Knowing what's at stake with this proposed renewal, it's simply impossible for me to express how heartening this talk of a potential filibuster is. Anyone willing to sell these rights down the river for some pyrrhic sense of safety is, well, unAmerican.

The tentative deal reached by negotiators would make permanent 14 of the 16 provisions of the law that are set to expire at the end of the year. The remaining two provisions - related to government demands for records from businesses and libraries and its use of roving wiretaps - would have to be reconsidered in seven years, as would a separate provision on taking aim at people suspected of being "lone wolf" terrorists.

And that is but a sample of its myriad atrocities. This legislation is, in a word, abominable. Any attempts to revise it in the name of privacy and protection of ordinary Americans would, in the end, amount to little more than lipstick on a pig. Not that I fault them for trying, but letting its provisions expire, by any means necessary, would be the ideal.

But in the eleventh-hour negotiations to complete the deal, Congressional leaders discussed changing some crucial elements of the agreement in response to concerns from lawmakers, officials said. One proposal would have lowered the "sunset" on the three investigative provisions from seven years to something closer to the four years approved by the Senate in its version of the bill earlier this year.

In a letter Thursday, a bipartisan group of six senators said the tentative deal had caused them "deep concern" because it did not go far enough in "making reasonable changes to the original law to protect innocent people from unnecessary and intrusive government surveillance."

The issues addressed in this letter, which represent only a fraction of the abilities granted to the government under this legislation, are chilling:

They complained that the House-Senate compromise now being considered takes back some civil liberty protections that senators had agreed to, including changing a Senate requirement that the government inform the targets of a "sneak and peek" search warrant within seven to 30 days.

"Sneak and peek" search warrants allow police to conduct secret searches of people's homes or businesses and inform them later.

The compromise also removed a Senate provision that would have mandated judicial reviews when authorities used Patriot Act powers to search financial, medical, library, school and other records, the six senators said.

"We cannot support a conference report that would eliminate the modest protections for civil liberties that were agreed to unanimously in the Senate," they said.

Some of the demands threatened by the working compromise include measures intended to limit the overly broad surveillance powers allowed under the act:

Feingold said many Democrats and some Republicans agree with the demands outlined in the three-page letter, which also include:

• Giving courts strong authority to approve "national security letters," which the FBI issues on its own to get personal and business records in terror probes.

• Imposing a four-year "sunset" on national security letters that would bar their use after 2010 unless Congress acts to permit them beyond that date.

• Imposing a seven-year sunset on other provisions allowing record-gathering.

Sunset? No, thank you. I don't want to have to be fighting this battle in another four, seven or ten years. The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act needs to go in the shredder. Oooh! Maybe some enterprising overzealous staffer could sneak in a rider declaring that all the provisions expire upon the bill's ratification! Since they're in such a hurry to vote on the thing, they probably wouldn't notice.

The Republican-controlled House hopes to approve the compromise on Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told senators Thursday they will have to address the legislation "before we leave."

...The Bush administration, which saw the negotiators' tentative agreement as a strong endorsement of its demand for tough antiterror tools, has made the reauthorization of the act one of its top legislative priorities, and officials have been pushing for a quick resolution to avoid hitting a deadline at the end of December, when several major surveillance and investigative powers in the law would expire.

Those days of wine and roses are over, Georgie. If you think anybody who has to go up for re-election is going to go out on a limb for the worst president ever, you should just retire already. Just take your bike and go home.

And, please, take the NYT with you. In their article's lede, they shamelessly state that it is Democratic Senators encouraging the filibuster, but in reality, it is a bipartisan group of six senators who wrote that letter demanding modifications to the bill and it is the entire group that is considering the filibuster.

Reflecting the political breadth of concerns about the law, the letter was signed by three Republicans - Senators Larry E. Craig, John E. Sununu and Lisa Murkowksi - and three Democrats - Senators Richard J. Durbin and Ken Salazar and Mr. Feingold.

..."We have worked too long and too hard to allow this conference report to eliminate the modest protections for civil liberties that were agreed to unanimously in the Senate," Ms. Murkowski, of Alaska, said in a separate statement.

"There is still time for the conference committee to step back and agree to the Senate's bipartisan approach. If the conference committee doesn't do that, we will fight to stop this bill from becoming law."

...Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who signed the letter, said the group might try to block the Senate from even considering renewal of the Patriot Act by using a procedural move that requires only 40 of 100 votes.

"We'll try whatever option there is," Feingold said.

The more I see of Feingold, the more I like, ever since he was the only senator to vote against the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act in the first place. He should be showered with flowers and balloons! But a simple phone call or letter of support would work as well. This group needs to be encouraged in every way possible to either vote against renewing the provisions or using the filibuster if that's what it takes.

It would also be good to call Reid to make sure this will be a unified, party-line vote for the Democratic Caucus. Let's hope that the participation of Durbin, the Minority Whip, is a sign. And why not; we all might as well call any Stepford Senators we may have. At the very least, they could be encouraged to leave things to expire. The more calls they get, the better. But faxes are best.

wing tip to dailykos


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