Friday, June 03, 2005

While You Were Sleeping 

Hate to bother you, but while everyone was looking the other way the Senate Intelligence Committee quietly crept into closed-door sessions to renew the most intrusive "sunset provisions" of the Patriot Act, and to add a few new ones for good measure. The fourth amendment especially looks to be under assault. No cause for alarm, though: Congress certainly knows what's best for us, and there's no reason their deliberations should be open to public scrutiny. Public scrutiny, as you know, can gum up the process something fierce. Now that we think about it, we're embarrassed to have mentioned it in the first place:
WITH ALL the recent filibuster hype, the Senate Intelligence Committee had hoped to quietly retreat to a closed-door session to mark up and expand the so-called "Patriot Act."

The heated "nuclear-option" debate thwarted the plan, but the committee members quickly rescheduled the secretive meeting and held it on May 26, where it ended without consensus.

On Tuesday, the committee plans to continue its closed-door session -- and with the filibuster out of the way, the issue must get the public scrutiny it deserves.

On the table are 16 of the most extreme provisions of the act, which are set to expire on Dec. 31 . . . .

The most troubling proposal in the bill gives the FBI power to bypass judicial approval when demanding business, library, medical and all other tangible records, so long as the agents say the materials are needed for terrorism-related investigations. But several reports have shown the FBI have subpoenaed documents for investigations that have nothing to do with terrorism.

A closed-door session would allow the committee to expand a law that affects the basic freedoms of the American people without public scrutiny or debate.
Anita Ramasastry of FindLaw dissects a few of the bill's more egregious provisions here.

These are the members of the Intelligence Committee. If you see your senator's name on the list, by all means call or write with any troubling questions you may have. Our public servants are a friendly, accomodating lot, and most of them will only too happy to explain why it's vital to our national security that your constitutional rights be stripped away in secret.

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