...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
      ( 10:57 AM )
It's Come to This: Congress MIGHT Debate Whether to Keep Civil Rights (but they haven't decided)

Forwarded by the NCPPF (National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom) - an article in NY Times (I think you might have to register to read it) by Eric Lichtblau yesterday disclosed that Republican senators (specifically Hatch) want to make the PATRIOT Act permanent - forever:

Working with the Bush administration, Congressional Republicans are maneuvering to make permanent the sweeping
antiterrorism powers granted to federal law enforcement agents after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said today.

The move is likely to touch off strong objections from many Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress who believe that the Patriot Act, as the legislation that grew out of the attacks is known, has already given the government too much power to spy on Americans.

But Republicans in the Senate in recent days have discussed a proposal, written by Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, that would repeal the sunset provisions and make the law's new powers permanent, officials said. Republicans may seek to move on the proposal this week by trying to attaching it to another antiterrorism bill that would make it easier for the government to use secret surveillance warrants against "lone wolf" terrorism suspects.

Many Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated by what they see as a lack of information from the Justice Department on how its agents are using their newfound powers, and they say they need more time to determine whether agents are abusing those powers.

The Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said today that without extensive review, he "would be very strongly opposed to any repeal" of the 2005 time limit. He predicted that Republicans lacked the votes to repeal the limits.

Indeed, Congressional officials and political observers said the debate might force lawmakers to take stock of how far they were willing to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.


With the act's provisions not set to expire for more than two and a half years, officials expected that the debate over its future would be many months away. But political jockeying over separate bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, appears to have given Senator Hatch the chance to move on the issue much earlier than expected.

The Kyl-Schumer measure would eliminate the need for federal agents seeking secret surveillance warrants to show that a suspect is affiliated with a foreign power or agent, like a terrorist group.

The proposal was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Republicans are upset because several Democrats say that when the measure reaches the Senate floor for a full vote, perhaps this week or later in the month, they plan to offer amendments that would impose tougher restrictions on the use of secret warrants.


But an aide [to Hatch] who demanded anonymity said of the "lone wolf" bill: "We support this bill as it is and that's how we want to see it passed. If the Democrats want to amend the bill, then we will offer an equal number of amendments to improve the bill as well. We hope the Democrats will stop holding this bill up."

Members of the Judiciary Committee, which Mr. Hatch leads, have been working in recent days to reach an agreement over the amendments that will be considered, officials said. But so far neither side appears willing to back down.

This is a very serious issue. I don't know how many Americans realize the kinds of powers the Justice Department already has, but they are incredibly vast. I don't feel very confident in the Democratic leadership right now (well, never have, actually), but they have shown some moxie over the whole Estrada nomination, so I'll give them that. There needs to be some massive change right now in getting the messages out to the people - there needs to be some hard-hitting way to say it loud and say it often what this administration is trying to get away with. The Dems can't be afraid of the corporate media, the senators need to start speaking publicly, giving interviews, saying what's what. McAuliffe is a puppet of the corporations himself, as are most Dems in power anyway - and so if they truly have any convictions, now is the time they need to make them public. There probably aren't many times in a government's history when you really do need to actually decide if you're going to fish or just cut bait. I think this could be one of them.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this could be a Constitutional crisis...that is if any one is even made aware of what is happening. People have to stop thinking things like "well, I never did anything wrong, so it doesn't bother me." We have to start thinking about the fact that the collective good is really being threatened here, and that if even one person in this country is oppressed, mistreated, harmed, etc...then that means all of us are, and any of us could be next. This has already happened, to American citizens, and is happening now. Are we truly willing to put up with this and accept it based on a false sense of "security?" The Justice Department is NOT looking out for our good, it's looking to have power. Just like the rest of this administration.

What kind of world are we willing to let our children grow up into? The kind where they could be arrested and held secretly for no reason? The kind where their teachers might be wire tapped or spied on? The kind where they can't get a job unless they are a certain race or can claim a certain background? The kind of world where they can't travel to other countries for fear of retribution, or simply because they won't be let back in? The kind of world where they can't speak their minds without fear of being reported to the "authorities?" This is not an exaggeration. This is the road we are already on. I want to get off. I'm writing my congressman and senators today about this - and so should you. It's time to start paying attention. I hope enough people will.

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