Congress voted this week to extend three provisions of the Patriot Act for four more years:
- The “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, which allows surveillance orders that do not identify either the person who is a target, nor the kind of information sought.
- Section 215, which lets the government fish through library records.
- The “lone wolf” provision.
These are the same three provisions Congress kicked down the road for one year, in 2010. We thought they were putting it off to a non-election year when they could have meaningful debate on amendments, but apparently they were just deceiving us into thinking they’d take it up for real this year.
“Lone Wolf” has, as far as we know, never been used. There’s no need for it, and there’s no need to reauthorize it. But the other two provisions have been used – and abused. Both privacy protections or any meaningful checks and balances, and this week Congress had an opportunity to reform them. Congress discarded this opportunity, did nothing, and extended these police-state powers for another four years.
- “Despite having months to debate and legislate on this crucial issue, Congress has once again chosen to rubberstamp the Patriot Act and its overreaching provisions. Since its passage nearly a decade ago, the Patriot Act has been used improperly again and again by law enforcement to invade Americans’ privacy and violate their constitutional rights.”
— Laura Murphy, ACLU
I’m ashamed to say that both of Massachusetts’ US Senators voted “Yes” on this extension. I called both of their offices on Monday morning to ask their positions, and both refused to tell me anything about what these Senators thought of the Patriot Act reauthorization. Perhaps our Senators were embarrassed to let constituents know.
Of our 10-member House delegation, two also voted “yes” – Niki Tsongas, and Bill Keating.