Congress Renews Patriot Act, Obama Signs Remotely

Once again afraid to appear soft on terrorism, and evidence (if any was really needed) that the death of Osama bin Laden means nothing to the Beltway “War on Terrorism,” Congress passed a four-year extension of the Patriot Act Thursday night. President Obama, in Europe for the G8 summit, “signed” the bill with an autopen machine.

The post-9-11 legislation would have expired at midnight. Obama had “warned Congress that any interruption in the surveillance authority would threaten national security.”

FUD was not limited to the White House. Here’s Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI):

If Congress fails to reauthorize these laws before they expire, America’s national security and that of its citizens will be the most vulnerable in a decade.

The bill to extend the Act (S990 ENG – pdf) passed the Senate 72-23 (opposing: 4 Republicans, 18 Democrats, 1 Independent); the House, 250-153 (supporting: 196 Republicans and 54 Democrats; opposing: 31 Republicans and 122 Democrats).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is particularly concerned about one of the three controversial portions of the bill, the business-records provision. The Obama Administration has accelerated the use of this provision: 21 requests in 2009, 96 in 2010. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court , of course, approved them all (modifying 43 in the process).

Wyden’s concern is rooted in the degree that government action is classified:

I draw a sharp line between the secret interpretation of the law, which I believe is a growing problem, and protecting operations and methods in the intelligence area, which have to be protected.

In addition, the extension maintains the government’s broad roving-wiretap powers.

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9 Comments

  1. But in fairness, the bill did authorize citizens to randomly wiretap and hack into government operations and legislator offices and homes, right? Someone’s got to protect them too.

  2. I wonder if it would help if citizens had some meaningful statistics regarding how terrorism is thwarted through such a program, or if in fact it really isn’t all that helpful, as to its stated goal.

    Regardless it is a highly charged political tool, and I can imagine the wrath of judgment coming down on any president who would dare let such legislation pass on and die.

    It was a major talking point regarding Obama’s “weakness” during the campaign years and subsequently, and especially via the likes of Cheney and Co. about this administration being “soft on terror.” It will occupy and haunt us for decades to come, regardless of who sits at the helm.

    The fear that started in the name of patriotism, that Rovian “with us or against us” spirit won’t die easily, and neither will wire taps, secret prisons, and torture (that is still being actively praised.)

  3. Thanks! I find it disturbing on many levels. On civil liberties, there has been no reversal of Bush policies, and I doubt that this will hurt Obama next fall. Let’s face it, most folks don’t care. The ‘if I don’t do anything wrong, I won’t have anything to worry about’ mindset seems to be the norm. (iPhone-impaired but I fixed the broken blockquote!)

  4. I’m not crazy about an open ended “security” plan, but I am gaining more confidence in Bush-Lite.

  5. What is FUD?

  6. KK:”What is FUD?”
    ———-
    Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.
    The use of lies, half-truths, distortions and distractions to change people’s opinions or behavior.

  7. Thx, PE for responding to KK!

    FUD plays on human emotion and insecurities. It’s the basis for most TV commercials–think about the car on the dark, wet, windy road (at night!) and the need for brakes. Even ring-around-the-collar! It moved from commercial products to politics (and is a mainstay of tech companies like Microsoft).

  8. Throw grandma off the cliff, after all she is 54 and can probably swim.

  9. Thanks, ProfElwood and KG!

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