Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Rat On" Senator Paul!

Our new Senator was correct, and our Senior Senator wrong last week on one of this session's most important votes, extending the so-called Patriot Act; a law passed with too little debate (and insufficient public hearings) in the emotional times after the 9/11 attack.

In late December, Congress passed a temporary extension, promising time for debate and amendments before considering the full four year extension. Didn't happen; no hearings, little debate, almost no amendments, even from such a senior senator as Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, who joined with Paul in an amendment to provide more oversight of this controversial law. It failed.

A top intelligent official said even a brief lapse would mean "the nation would be less secure." Errant nonsense, and quickly countered by another top official who admitted the nation would survive if the extension weren't approved by midnight on the appointed day. But taking no chances, when both chambers rushed through approval, the White House used an "auto pen" device to allow the President to sign it from his French conference.

Paul had complained, correctly, the law gives the government too much power; allowing the feds to rifle thru our library cards, Facebook postings, bank transactions, etc., and letting the FBI and others tap phones; not just of foreigners, but also native born citizens, sometimes without a court order. Sen. Paul was finally able to work out a deal, under midnight deadline pressure, to get a little debate and a few amendments. Too little debate and too few amendments.

In the aftermath of 9/11, security triumphed over freedom; many of our traditional civil liberties got trampled. (The government pressured major phone companies, illegally, to allow broad ranging wire taps in many cases, for example.) The Act's major provisions have not yet received a full court test. Our junior senator was "rat on" in his general approach that this important acts needs much more thorough study and debate.

I'm just sayin'...

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