One aspect of yesterday’s confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has gone unreported by the news media. In the morning session of hearings, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona asked Holder whether as Attorney General he would support the reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Section 215 is the section of the Patriot Act which permits federal agents to secretly obtain information on your reading habits, web browsing history or “any tangible things” from libraries, bookstores, universities and other businesses without the warrant required by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It expires as law in December 2009.
When Senator Kyl asked Holder whether he’d support the reauthorization of Section 215, here’s how Holder responded (my transcription from C-Span):
Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder: That’s one that has certainly generated more controversy, I believe, than the other two, and I think that the examination, the questions that I’d need to ask people in the field and who have been using that, I’d want to know as much as I possibly can. But as I said the tools that we have been given by Congress in FISA are important ones, and so I would look at all three of these and make a determination as to whether I’d be able to support them. But I expect that I would.
When liberal Americans found out that the Bush administration had been granted the authority to secretly obtain library records, information business activities or “any tangible thing” without a warrant, we got hopping mad about it. We demanded changes. Some brave Americans went to court to stop it, and are close to succeeding in their efforts to overturn Section 215…
… and now the nominee for Attorney General in the presidential administration of Barack Obama says that of course he’d like to hear the opinions of a lot of agents in the field about Section 215, but he expects that yes, he would support its reauthorization.
Kyl: PATRIOT Act Section 215?
Holder: maybe. probably.
And that’s it. With no transcripts of the Holder hearings available, that means word won’t get out too easily.
Will you help me get the word out about this?
Will you do something to remind the Obama administration of its responsibility to uphold civil liberties?
Will you demonstrate in Washington, DC for the Constitution?
Will you write a letter to your newspaper?
Will you at least vote for consideration of the issue on Barack Obama’s presidential transition website?
Or is support for violation of the Constitution all right when it’s mouthed by the administration of a charming president?