Since 2001, the federal government has been conducting sneak-and-peek searches and warrantless wiretap operations against peaceful, law-abiding Americans thanks to the passage of the USA Patriot Act. These practices violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, our supreme law of the land, but they proceed regardless.
Very quietly, both houses of the U.S. Congress are positioning themselves to reauthorize provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on February 28. Moves to reauthorize the Patriot Act are likely to be made this week. The House Calendar shows you why:
As you can see, the U.S. House is taking a vacation for two of the four weeks in February, and to ensure that Patriot Act reauthorization happens by February 28, each chamber not only has to pass a bill but also to wait for the other chamber to finish doing the same, to meet in conference committee to reconcile any bill differences, and then to vote on final passage. That process takes time, which means you can be reasonably sure that the House and Senate will make their first votes this week.
It’s too late to write letters to your papers or to your members of Congress. Pick up the phone. Either dial up the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative and two Senators, or look up your delegation’s House and Senate numbers and call each office directly.
Let your members of Congress know who you are, where you live, and that you’re following their actions in Congress closely. Ask them to represent your wishes by:
1) Voting against reauthorization of the Patriot Act;
2) Insisting upon a full markup process in committee including time for debate;
3) Insisting upon full consideration on floor of the House and Senate with an open amendment process and allowance for a complete floor debate.
Any declaration that the Patriot Act must be reauthorized without full consideration is a sham: Congress has had a full year to initiate discussion and generate reforms, and instead has chosen to put off any action until the last minute to generate a false “emergency” that truncates debate. The government’s unfettered searches through and spying on America is a serious subject that, at long last, deserves serious and lengthy discussion, not the sneaky and furtive reauthorization that Congress plans to roll out this week.
If you have any other ideas about what we can do to block Patriot Act reauthorization, or about other activist efforts on the subject already underway, please talk about it right here, right now.