Bi-Partisan Coalition Thwarts Patriot Act Renewal
While many Americans were closely monitoring breaking world news in the Middle East, conservative and moderate House Representatives tried to renew the controversial Patriot Act bill, which gave law enforcement sweeping powers of domestic surveillance aimed at thwarting future terrorist plots. Widespread concern that the Patriot Act has been illegally used to spy on average Americans in non-terrorism related sweeps has grown since its inception after September 11th.
But in what many see as an amazing show of defiance and victory for American democracy, a bi-partisan coalition of Congressmen in the House of Representatives vetoed the extension of several key provisions of the Act. Twenty-six Republicans broke with leadership and opposed the bill, along with a majority of Democrats voting against the extension.
The soon-to-expire provisions: Allow roving wiretaps of terrorism suspects who change phones or locations; Authorize the government access with a court order to “any tangible thing” related to a suspect, including library records; and Enable authorities to conduct secret surveillance on “lone wolf” suspects who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio called on the Tea Party Caucus to vote down the Act, but only 8 members of the Tea Party Caucus, including Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and newcomer Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho, joined the coalition.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he would oppose legislation extending the Patriot Act if it reaches the Senate. “I firmly believe it is a primary duty of our government to do what it can to protect the lives of its citizens. But I also believe it must in equal measure protect our liberty, and in this our government has failed us. We should remember the words of Ben Franklin, who famously said ‘Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,’” Paul said.
“It is time for Congress to stop quietly extending this law and avoiding a serious discussion about protecting all the rights of all Americans. I will insist the Senate allow debate and amendments as we consider this important legislation,” he concluded.
The House could reconsider the Patriot Act as early as Thursday.