Patriot Act Extension Passes, 72-23

A tweet from Wired's Danger Room blog said it all:

Aaaaaaand the Senate reauthorizes the Patriot Act, 72 Real Americans to 23 Terrorist Lovers .#freedom

And so it goes, that nearly 10 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the American public will willingly continue to submit to a regime of surveillance, loss of privacy and suspended rights, delivered to them by Democrats and Republicans alike, in a bill a dubious constitutional legitimacy.

The Washington Post's Felicia Somnez examined three attempted amendments to the bill with a scorekeeper's eye: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., he of the world's greatest deliberative body's Tea Party klatsch, was deemed the winner, having succeeded in getting votes on two of his proposed amendments to the floor, where they promptly failed. They included, writes Somnez:

one that would limit “suspicious activity” reporting requirements under the Act to requests from law enforcement agencies, and another – the one that had seen the greatest opposition from Reid – that would exempt certain gun records from being searched under the counterterrorism surveillance law.

Paul was a victor, by Somnez' count, simply for having, despite his freshman status in a body governed by a hierarchy of longevity, for simply having won a vote on his amendments. Well, two of them.

A third, co-sponsored with Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, whose tenure in that august body exceeds three decades, was not permitted to see a vote. That one would have ended the use of so-called "national security letters," the vehicle used by agencies such as the FBI to investigate virtually anything they wish about you, without telling you, and without a search warrant. The most onerous thing about these letters is the person to whom the information request is directed -- say, a librarian directed to cough up your reading history -- is forbidden to tell another living soul about the request. So, apparently Harry Reid couldn't let that one see the light of day. God forbid Democrats should be left to counter the "soft on terror" smears of the right in exchange for protecting the liberties of the American people -- who apparently think they don't want them anyway.

So, by Somnez's lights, the big loser in today's vote is... Patrick Leahy.

I'd say it's the American people -- whether they think so or not.

AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at May 26, 2011, 12:36pm

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