Can’t take your eye off Washington for a minute:
The Senate voted unanimously on Friday to make permanent virtually all the main provisions of the law known as the USA Patriot Act, after Republican leaders agreed to include additional civil rights safeguards and to forestall any expansion of the government’s counterterrorism powers.
The House passed a bill of its own last week that would also extend the law’s surveillance and law enforcement powers, which the Bush administration considers critical to combating terrorism. While the House and Senate bills are not identical, the differences are modest enough that Congressional officials said they were confident that they could work out a compromise.
The Patriot Act has become a target of criticism since it was passed in the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with more than 300 communities voicing formal concerns about what they see as its chilling effect on civil liberties. But many opponents of the law, as well as many supporters, said the Senate bill was an acceptable compromise after months of heated debate over the scope of the government’s authority to track and eavesdrop on terror suspects…
The Bush administration had pressed for the expanded subpoena powers as well. But Congressional officials said that after several days of private discussions among Senate leaders, Senator Roberts agreed not to pursue the administrative subpoenas or other measures endorsed by the Intelligence Committee in order to ensure quick reauthorization of the Patriot Act in some form.
Why it was necessary to make these changes permanent is beyond me- these should be revisited every 5-10 years, if for no other reason than to examine their efficacy. Instead, the authoritarian impulses of the right wing won out, and the expanded power for the state is here to stay. And nary a peep from the opposition party. Bolton- well, he is real important. Better filibuster him. But the Patriot Act? We’ll just bitch about that.
“This good faith effort made by Senators, while imperfect, is a good starting point, and is vastly better than its counterpart passed by the House. Although the ACLU was unable to endorse the final bill, it contains some provisions mindful of the Bill of Rights, and does not include such broad and unnecessary powers like administrative subpoenas.
We’ll see what the final bill looks like soon enough.