Friday, December 16, 2005

Senate disses the Patriot Act and government spying on Americans

And so U.S. senators from both parties today blocked legislation that would renew certain provisions of the Patriot Act, a centerpiece of President Bush’s war on terrorism. Voting 52-47, eight short of the needed 60 to end debate on the senate floor and to move for the passage of the legislation, the senators demanded greater protection of civil liberties.

And rightly so, especially with the report coming from the New York Times (a report by the way which the NYT delayed to publish until today, to coincide with the release and sale of a book on the administration and the CIA: bad call there, NYT) that months after 9/11 the President allegedly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop without warrants on Americans and others inside the United States in order to search for evidence of terrorist activity.

The government's evesdropping without a warrant on Americans is illegal.

The Patriot Act expands domestic surveillance by giving certain agencies such as the NSA and the F.B.I. more power to collect information, but of course only if it's court-approved (i.e., with a warrant). And the provisions that the senators did not pass today include approving roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records, Internet use, and other items from businesses, hospitals, and libraries.

Says Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001: "I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care.”

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