The Democratic House and Senate have voted to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act which many liberals have criticized for the last eight years, and today President Obama signed that extension into law. One of these provisions allows investigators to obtain a warrant to wiretap all phones that may be used by a terrorist, not just a particular phone number. Federal agencies have had this power, which is obviously necessary in an era of disposable cell phones, for quite a few years in organized crime investigations, but only with the Patriot Act was the authority extended to terrorism. Another provision allows the government to subpoena records more or less as lawyers have had the ability to do in civil cases forever. This is the notorious “library” provision that has nothing in particular to do with libraries. The third provision allows federal agencies to surveil “lone wolf” terrorists who may be dangerous even though not affiliated with a particular group, like the Washington snipers of a few years ago.
This legislation shouldn’t be in the least controversial, but Democrats spent years demagoguing the Bush administration’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. The Democrats’ shameful conduct included countless attacks on the Patriot Act. Yet, now that they have the responsibility of governing, those attacks are forgotten–the extension passed the House 315-97 and Obama signed the legislation quietly, without a whimper.
I suppose it’s too much to expect the Democrats to admit they were wrong all along.
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