Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Patriot Act defeated in Senate - for now

The bipartisan coalition has succeeded:
After an emotional debate about the balance between national security and personal liberties and the very character of the republic, the Senate voted, 52 to 47, to end debate and take a yes-or-no vote on the law itself.

But since 60 votes are required under Senate rules to end debate, the Patriot Act was left hanging. The House of Representatives voted, 251 to 174, last week in favor of the latest version of the bill, which had been worked out in negotiations between the two chambers.

The Senate action today leaves the bill up in the air and due to expire on Dec. 31.
It's been defeated - for now - but expect supporters to try and get it passed again.

This morning, many in the Senate who are opposed to the Patriot Act mentioned this curious development (summarized by the Center for American Progress:)
The New York Times has reported that in 2002, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans and others in the United States in ways that "go far beyond the expanded counterterrorism powers granted by Congress under the USA Patriot Act." The program has revived a domestic spying operation at the NSA not seen since the 1960s when the agency routinely eavesdropped "on Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists."


Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, "said the secret order may amount to the president authorizing criminal activity." Some officials at the NSA agree. According to the New York Times, "[S]ome agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation." Others were "worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president." In 2004, "concerns about the program expressed by national security officials, government lawyers and a judge prompted the Bush administration to suspend elements of the program and revamp it." But it continues to this day.
The Patriot Act will not make us safer. It takes away civil liberties for no good reason. We don't need the Patriot Act to fight terrorists. What we do need is an administration that will pursue the terrorists instead of launching preemptive attacks on other countries.

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