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Friday, November 18, 2005

Patriot Act or (Fili)Bust(er)?

Negotiations on renewal of the Patriot Act continue today, as time ticks down toward the Thanksgiving recess. According to the NYTimes, there are still some substantial disagreements to be hammered out -- with a bipartisan group of Senators holding the line on some key provisions.
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."

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.

The group called for tighter restrictions on the government's ability to demand records and its use of so-called "sneak and peak" warrants to conduct secret searches without immediately informing the target, among other measures.
Good for them, I say. After revelations in the past couple of weeks on the extent of the Patriot Act being used for extensive information grabs without proper documentation -- and big revelations that this included 30,000 national security letters to libraries and other public entities alone, with little to no oversight -- it is a good thing to take some time and consider the very real long-term implications that this law has on our society as a whole.
"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.
Good plan on Feingold's part. After the mess of the Graham habeas restriction attempts, it seems like Senators could use a refresher course in Constitutional rights and civil liberties.