There are a handful of Republican senators who deserve a great deal of credit for standing up to the bullying of their own leadership.
The Senate on Friday rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the USA Patriot Act as infringing too much on Americans’ privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.
In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill’s Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.
Feingold and Craig want to extend the Patriot Act in its current form for several months so that the Senate has time to add more civil liberties protections, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has refused. The failure to close off debate and bring the bill to a vote came in the wake of today’s New York Times report that Bush authorized domestic surveillance of phone calls and emails of thousands of private citizens.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
“This is really a sea change,” said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. “It’s almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches.”
Hey… remember the good old 1990’s, when the right-wing, whacko, militia-types spouted their paranoid fantasies about government intrusion and “black helicopters” and all that? Should it be any surprise that now that these same wing-nuts are running the country, they’re attempting to use on the rest of us the exact same tactics they imagined were once being used on them?
Okay… maybe that’s overstating things. But to those ardent GOP loyalists who would defend the Bush administration turning our intelligence apparatus inward, authorizing domestic spying on US citizens without court order… would you be so cavalier about our civil liberties if the enormous power of the state rested in the hands of a Democratic administration? Because if we still have a democracy, you’ve got to expect that it will eventually.