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Watch Judiciary Committee Mark Up the Surveillance Bill — And Take Names

The time for the “representative” part of representative democracy is past, at least in this round; either you called your senators, reached the Senate Judiciary Committee, and let others know about what’s going on, or you didn’t.

In one hour, the Judiciary Committee will meet to finish “marking up” (that is, discussing and amending) a bill to reauthorize warrantless surveillance under the Patriot Act for four more years. Some facts emerged during last week’s markup: now we know that overall, 90% of the sneak-and-peek searches of Americans’ homes carried out without warrants under the Patriot Act were in cases having nothing to do with terrorism. We have learned that last year (2008), only 0.4% of sneak-and-peek warrantless searches were in terrorism cases. 0.4%! Keep that in mind as you hear Senators say that we need to keep ignoring the 4th amendment in order to catch the terrorists.

Our responsible role as citizens today isn’t to call our Senators and push them to do the right thing: it’s too late for that now. Today, our responsible role is to watch what the Senators do and to keep them accountable for their actions.

Watch the Judiciary Committee webcast, starting at 10:00 AM. Last week, there were two links to such a webcast, but only one of them worked. I’ll provide two links here today, just in case one of them breaks down again: try either http://judiciary.senate.gov/webcast/livewebcast.cfm or http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=4107. In any case, shortly after the meeting adjourns an archival webcast will be available for your review here.

Take note of what the Senators do, and report it to others. There is a large Democratic Party majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee. That means there’s no way for warrantless surveillance to continue in America unless politicians of the Democratic Party agree to it. Whatever happens today, warrantless surveillance policy in America will no longer be a feature of Bush Republicanism. It will become a feature of Democratic Party politics. If that’s not what you thought the Democratic Party was elected to do, then to the extent you care about civil liberties in America it’s time to raise heck.

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