Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee set aside Russ Feingold's JUSTICE Act, which would have amended the PATRIOT Act to protect civil liberties. It then replaced Senator Pat Leahy's already weak bill with an even weaker one.
- Several safeguards found in the JUSTICE Act are not in the new bill
- The Committee defeated amendments requiring evidence that targets of business records requests and National Security Letters must have some connection to terrorism or espionage.
But hope is not lost . . .
- The Senate Judiciary's bill (S. 1692) hasn't yet passed the full Senate
- In 2006, almost two-thirds of House Democrats, including now-Speaker Pelosi, voted AGAINST the PATRIOT renewal
- The voters did not punish these Democrats for their votes; in fact, later that year Democrats won control of Congress
The Obama Administration generally wants the continuation of the Bush status quo on civil liberties. We must encourage Congress to listen to the people instead of the President. If House Democrats show some backbone, they could exercise leverage by . . .
- Introducing and passing the JUSTICE Act,
- Adding greater civil liberties protections to any PATRIOT renewal bill, or . . .
- Threatening to do NOTHING and allow three provisions of the PATRIOT Act to expire on December 31
This is what I said in my personal comments:
I was disappointed with the results of the Senate Judiciary hearings last week. We must have strong civil liberties protections in any PATRIOT Act renewal bill. I hope a better bill is produced on the Senate floor, and encourage the House to pass the JUSTICE Act. If Congress can't provide better safeguards for my civil liberties, please oppose any PATRIOT Act renewal bill and work to repeal the PATRIOT Act outright.
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