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Friday, October 30, 2009

A wakeup call from Wyden

Oregon's fearless senior senator is acting like a Democrat this week. He's actually calling for a scale-back of some of the crazy domestic spy powers that were given to the government in the aftermath of 9/11:

While there are several controversial provisions in the USA Patriot Act, the coming debate is likely to center around the "business records" provision. Prior to 9/11, if the FBI or another government agency was conducting an intelligence investigation and wanted to obtain an individual's personal records from a bank, hospital, library, retail store or whatever institution was holding them, the government had to have evidence indicating that the person whose records were sought was a terrorist or a spy. The Patriot Act changed the law to authorize the government to collect any records deemed "relevant to an investigation."...

I have served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight years, and I have yet to see evidence -- classified or otherwise -- that has convinced me that revising the business records provision to include a less intrusive standard would be harmful to U.S. national security. Yet as Congress considers whether to reauthorize this standard -- written in a rush to judgment eight years ago -- some will undoubtedly argue that Congress should just trust that the provision is essential and blindly sign-off on reauthorization. I disagree. While "just trust us" has passed as informed national security debate in this country for eight years, it hasn't resulted in good national security policy....

While the Obama Administration has taken laudable steps to release some information about how certain provisions of the Patriot Act have been used, more needs to be done for Congress to have an informed debate on this issue. Specifically, there is classified information that the public and the majority of my colleagues have not seen that, in my judgment, is essential to understanding the full scope of this issue. I and other senators have raised this problem with the Executive Branch in classified correspondence, and I hope that this information will be declassified soon. If it is not, however, I believe that the Senate should debate it in closed session to ensure that all senators are fully informed before casting their vote.

Of course, with Congress blowing every available minute on the health care reform juggernaut, it's not at all clear that any such thing will happen. A rushed examination of the key issues seems much more likely.

And then there's the question whether the current occupant of the White House will act like a Democrat on this. At least he can pronounce "terror."

Comments (7)

Patriot Act? How can a dishonestly named law be right?

The hawk inside will out.

You know, I have always felt very lenient about the US government having a free(er) hand to combat militant fundamentalist Islam. When a pre-middle ages mindset still drives whole populations to cut off the clitorises of female children at birth, and motivates a modern government to dynamite a 2000 year old cliff carving of a gigantic Buddah, I have to wonder if the privacy of business records is so important.

This is just for show. It'll have about as much effect as his high-profile call for accountability from the Bush-era CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo. Rizzo approved the torture memos produced by the White House and DoJ as official CIA policy, was in charge of the office that sent out the order to destroy the interrogation tapes, and Wyden got a lot of press for denying him his official appointment as general counsel. But Rizzo was acting general counsel through almost the entire eight years of the Bush administration, and he stayed there through the first months of the Obama administration, until he retired this summer.

John Woo was the mastermind with Cheney, so where was Wyden then? Seems he was busy taking orders from Bush and Co. Now with an election coming up he fears we Oregonians might dump him. Even Mr. Smith is better than Wyden and that ain't much.

Smith is ok now that he has been defrocked, but Wyden still has some cajones and my jury is still out on his re-election. He continues to inspire and his rhetoric seems more sensible than many of his contemps. If all campaign contributions were rendered anonymous (sent thru a clearing house to deposit) and the taint of special interest influence washed away in the process, my concerns about Wyden would vanish. Do donors have a right to their identity being disclosed to the candidate? Is anonymity too great a burden on donor's const right to political speech? (Note to self: Get back to work, you slouch.) G

More than anything else, it sounds as though the congressman has found something safe to make bones over. As well, it sounds as though the congressman is feeling left out and wants the constituency to believe that closed door senate sessions are going to afford citizens greater rights and freedoms than other closed door sessions have.
We citizens of this great republic, as republicans, are amply capable of recognizing the walk and quack of a duck. Kind as they are, the manner of concerns that the congressman tenders about The Patriot, he is a part of it and it is a part of him. Rather than taking an apologist approach or trying to scam voters into believing that by his efforts, not yet seen, the congressman can be the hero we always wanted, the congressman might do better to just assert our values on and off the senate floor, come what may, and then ask us whether we’d vote for him again or not. As was the case when the congressman asserted our values with respect to Death With Dignitary.
Bolsheviks were Patriots too, we get that Mr. Congressman. We love our country and our freedoms and we can quite handily look after them, even with all of the obstacles that our government, left, right and center have placed in front of us. We are fully aware of which hands currently cup the Patriot Act, FISA, Rendition, Stimulus and so many other aspects of government intrusion into the lives of the private citizen.

Wow. These topics do scour the woodwork. Folks who can't tell male from female, or Woo from Yoo, are sure they know the motives behind our senior senator's actions. How about giving him a little positive feedback when he's right? And worrying about the real problem -- a former con law teacher who seems to have left the basic principles in the classroom on his way to the Whitehouse.

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