Reprise: Patriot Act Heroes and Zeroes on the Senate Judiciary Committee
If you were hibernating in the early part of October, you missed the spectacle of eight blind donkeys rearing on their hind legs in an acrobatic effort to form the shape of an all-seeing eye.
On October 1 and October 8, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to consider amendments to S. 1692, a bill to extend the USA Patriot Act for four more years. The Patriot Act, passed in haste in the fall of 2001, has become infamous among supporters of the Constitution because of the Patriot Act’s authority has been much more often used to fight the War on Drugs, the War on Inappropriate Immigration, and the War on Contraband. In the meantime, Americans’ guaranteed 4th Amendment right to demand a warrant before the government searches their home has gone by the wayside. Indeed, even Americans’ ability to know that they’ve been searched is gone away, quietly, just like that.
Oh, but those were just the bad old days, right? The Bush years, right? Back before the Democrats took our country back! Right?
Wrong. The White House, the Senate and the House are under the firmest Democratic control seen for decades, and a majority of Democrats have moved to reauthorize the Patriot Act. Again.
Who is the sponsor of S. 1692, that bill to reauthorize provisions of the Patriot Act? It’s not a Republican. It’s Senator Patrick Leahy. He’s a Democrat.
Who are the cosponsors of S. 1692? They are Benjamin Cardin, Dianne Feinstein, Ted Kaufman, Amy Klobuchar, Bernard Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse. Not one of those Senators is a Republican. All of them are Democrats. This year’s bill to reauthorize intrusive and anti-constitutional government surveillance is the darling of Senate Democrats.
How very odd for Democrats, who raked in donations by against the Patriot Act during their Senate campaigns, to be so strongly in favor of the Patriot Act now! The oddities multiply when you consider that at least one of these senators — Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — cosponsored the legislation without knowing what was in the bill. Some other Democratic senators — Chuck Schumer and Al Franken among them — wandered in and out of the markup, inattentive to the detail before them. Proxy votes went aflying. Speaking of votes, that’s where the oddities really creep in.
You see, during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on October 8, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois offered a mild amendment, HEN09A07, which would have reformed a tool of the Patriot Act called National Security Letters. Under Durbin’s amendment, the FBI would have retain the power to go search and seize personal information from Americans, so long as that information:
— pertained to a foreign power or agent of a foreign power,
— was relevant to such an agent, or
— pertained to someone who has only been in contact with or known by such an agent.
If the Patriot Act was really all about getting those foreign terrorists, who could have possibly voted against this amendment?
A call by our J. Clifford to the office of the Majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed that each and every one of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Dick Durbin’s reform. You’d expect that. But his call also confirmed that the following Democrats voted against Durbin’s amendment:
Voting AGAINST Protections from National Security Letters
Senator Patrick Leahy (D – Vermont)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – California)
Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota)
Senator Charles Schumer (D – New York)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D – Rhode Island)
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D – Minnesota)
Senator Ted Kaufman (D – Delaware)
Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin)
Only 4 of the 8 Democrats voted FOR Durbin’s reforms:
Voting FOR Protections from National Security Letters
Senator Dick Durbin (D – Illinois)
Senator Russ Feingold (D – Wisconsin)
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D – Maryland)
Senator Arlen Specter (D – Pennsylvania)
Yes, that’s right. 12 Senate Democrats had the opportunity to protect Americans’ constitutional rights from the abusive expansion of Patriot Act powers into areas having nothing to do with terrorism. 8 out of the 12 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted that opportunity down. The Democrats have a big majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is because of the Democrats’ opposition to Patriot Act reform that the reform was shot down.
The story doesn’t stop there. In a committee meeting the week before, Senator Dick Durbin introduced a similar amendment, to restrict the Patriot Act’s Section 215 national security letters so they could be used only “to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities”. If the Patriot Act is all about stopping the terrorists, who in their right mind could vote against this one of Durbin’s amendments? It only restricts the Patriot Act to cases involving terrorists (and, OK, spies too). Who could oppose protecting Americans’ civil liberties in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism?
You know who. I don’t have to write down the roll call for this vote. It was exactly the same as the vote before.
When some dewy-eyed younguns come up to you and tell you that they’re going to vote for the Democrat for Congress because Democrats support civil liberties and the Bill of Rights and American Freedom and the Constitution and the Fight Against Big Brother and all that jazz, ask them if they’re referring to one of these four Senators:
If they aren’t, show ’em this article and ask ’em what weed they’ve been smoking.
Is this the end of the story? I sure hope not. But really, it’s up to me and you. Are we going to let the Democrats slide on selling out America’s Bill of Rights because we like donkeys more than we like elephants? Or are we going to give the Democrats what for? Are we going to embarrass them, shame them into getting their act together and doing the right thing? Are you? Consider it. If you see your Senator on the list of 8 Judiciary Democrats who voted against civil liberties, then click on his or her name to get information on his or her office phone numbers. Place a call and give your representative in Washington, DC a piece of your mind.
And hey, don’t stop there. Tell a friend. Pass it on.