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November 17, 2005

Patriot Act Permanent Renewal: a grim time approaches

The beginning of the end? I can't let this moment in history go by unmarked, and unremarked upon.

Perhaps we should start a candlelight vigil on the deathbed of our key freedom as citizens in a democracy.

The Patriot Act was certainly ugly, but the Patriot Act as permanent law is unconscionable. Mount the campaigns now, because this poor excuse for monitoring terrorists is nothing but a license for the federal government to monitor citizens and actively punish dissenters.

Link: Congress Nears Deal to Renew Antiterror Law - New York Times.

Congress Nears Deal to Renew Antiterror Law

By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: November 17, 2005

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Congressional negotiators neared a final agreement Wednesday night on legislation that will extend and keep largely intact the sweeping antiterrorism powers granted to the federal government after the Sept. 11 attacks under the law known as the USA Patriot Act.

After months of vitriolic debate, the tentative agreement represents a significant and somewhat surprising victory for the Bush administration in maintaining the government's expanded powers to investigate, monitor and track terror suspects.

[Don't call them terror suspects. "Terror suspects" are the red herring, because ANYONE can be fudged into the category "terror suspects" at any time. ANY kind of "suspect" is an innocent person who has not been proven guilty of any crime according to the rule of law. That makes monitoring "terror suspects" EXTRALEGAL according to our own laws.]

Negotiators met into the night Wednesday, with last-minute wrangling over several narrow points, and were expected to reach a final agreement by Thursday. Once negotiators sign the deal, it will require the final approval of the full House and Senate, which is likely to come this week.

But civil rights advocates and Democrats were already in full attack mode late Wednesday, calling the expected deal an "unacceptable" retreat from promised restrictions on the government's sweeping antiterrorism powers.

The agreement ensures the extension of all 16 provisions of the law that were set to expire in six weeks. Fourteen will be extended permanently, and the remaining two - dealing with the government's demands for business and library records and its use of roving wiretaps - will be extended for seven years.

[This is small comfort. Already word is getting out (despite the deliberate silencing of the people who observe the across the board hoovering of library records) of how fully these powers are being abused.]

The agreement also includes a seven-year extension of a separate provision on investigating "lone wolf" terrorists.

[uh, don't we have a word for "lone wolf" "terrorists" already in our legal system? Isn't that word "criminal"? Will the word "terrorism" be expanded to include all criminal activity soon?

Well, of course "terror" would never be expanded to include hate crimes, since they don't inspire terror in battered wives, beat-up people of color, and especially not gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. Because hate crimes don't really inspire deep-seated, long-term "terror," right? But "lone wolf" bank robbers do. Especially anyone who is misfortunate enough to commit a crime against a rich white man in a suit (unless it's a white collar crime, in which case the kickback exists for him to look the other way)... these may easily become our new "terrorists."]

The deal reached by negotiators does include some new restrictions on the government's powers, including greater public reporting and oversight of how often the government is demanding records and using various investigative tools.

Critics at the American Civil Liberties Union and elsewhere called the changes "window dressing" and said that the legislation left out what they considered more meaningful reform in preventing civil rights abuses in terror investigations.

"This is a bad bill," Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview. "These are cosmetic changes that do little to change the Patriot Act from the way it was passed four years ago."

The antiterrorism law has become a lightning rod, and the debate over its future - including dozens of hearings and votes by nearly 400 communities urging further restrictions - amounted to a national referendum on the balance between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties.

[...]

The Bush administration has made renewal of the antiterrorism law a priority. Administration officials said Wednesday that while they were still waiting to review the final agreement of more than 200 pages, they were pleased that it appeared to retain virtually all of the government's current powers.

[...]

It would be nice if Republicans were to suddenly discover their own party's long-lost affection for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I won't hold my breath. Real Republicans seem to have vanished into the sands of time along with Barry Goldwater. I have no clue who these mutant, fascist pod-people are now.

November 17, 2005 at 02:03 PM in Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink

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