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Obama Administration Does Not Want Lawmakers to Debate National Security

9:10 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo by David Dees

Three provisions of the PATRIOT Act set to expire were extended yesterday as Senate leaders effectively shut off debate and worked to block attempts to amend the Patriot Act to include privacy protections. The reauthorized provisions went to the House for approval and, after passing through Congress, the legislation was flown to US President Barack Obama in France so he could sign the reauthorization.

The continued granting of overly broad powers, which directly threaten Americans’ right to privacy without unreasonable search or seizure, was accompanied by passage in the House of a National Defense programs bill that included language granting the Executive Branch the authority to wage worldwide war.

A handful of lawmakers in the House and Senate attempted to make amendments or block the passage of measures that would allow powers granted to the state to greatly expand. A trans-partisan group of House representatives introduced an amendment that would have struck down the worldwide war provision.  Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mark Udall and Senator Ron Wyden each made valiant attempts to have a comprehensive debate on the provisions before granting reauthorization but the Obama Administration discouraged debate.

Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake and Mike Riggs of reported Sen. Harry Reid and others in Congress were using Obama Administration fearmongering and talking points to prevent provisions from expiration. Debate (and in effect democracy) was being obstructed because the White House was asserting, “The FBI would be able to continue using orders it had already obtained, but it would not be able to apply for new ones if further tips and leads came in about a possible terrorist operation…no one could predict what the consequences of a temporary lapse might be.”
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Deafening Liberal Silence as the Senate Moves to Extend the Patriot Act

7:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The United States Senate came one step closer to extending provisions of the PATRIOT Act, as only eight senators stood up and called for the provisions to be reformed or not extended. The provisions, slated to expire on Friday, now must pass in a final vote later in the week.

Provisions slated to expire include: the “roving wiretap provision,” which permits government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders without identifying the person or the facility being tapped (Section 206 of the Act); the “Lone Wolf” provision, which permits intelligence agencies to survey non-US persons not affiliated with a foreign organization (Section 6001 of the Act); and Section 215, which grants government authorization to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no evidence the “thing” pertains to the terrorist or terrorist activity under investigation.

One senator, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who would like to “sunset the entire PATRIOT Act and protect American civil liberties,” delivered a speech on the Senate floor in defense of freedom and privacy in America.

What the PATRIOT Act has done, explained Paul, is “taken away some of the protections of the Fourth Amendment.” Under the Fourth Amendment, the government must “name the person and place to be searched.” Those protections are gone.

No longer does government need to have “probable cause.” As Paul stated, the Act has taken away those rights and made it so if it’s “relevant” or they think the search or seizure is related to the investigation authorities can conduct searches and seizures.

Paul raised the issue of national security letters (NSLs), something that candidate Barack Obama opposed. They allow the FBI to write warrants without review by a judge, Paul stated. This throws off our nation’s system of checks and balances.

“Do we want a government that looks at our records and is finding out what our reading habits are?” asked Paul. “One of the provisions apply to library records. Do you want the government to find out what you’re reading at the library?”

Additionally, Paul asked, “We now have a president that wants to know where you contributed before you do work for the government. Do we want that kind of all-encompassing government that is looking at every record from top to bottom and invading our privacy?”
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