Wednesday, February 15


Russ Feingold scolds Democrats who are caving in on the Patriot Act. Seems a number of them are ready to accept the same deal they rejected in December. Preach on, brother.

Under this deal, the government can still access the library or medical records of someone with no connection to terrorism. After four years of public outcry over Section 215 of the Patriot Act -- the so-called library records provision -- and after the Senate unanimously passed an amendment fixing this provision in July, apparently a number of my colleagues have decided that government fishing expeditions aren't such a big deal.

Almost as bad, the deal fails to fix the "gag order" that prevents businesses from telling anyone that they've received a Section 215 order for records. The deal keeps the gag rule in place for a year; after that, the recipient can challenge the gag order in court but under rules that make it almost impossible to win.

The deal also fails to address the concerns Democrats expressed about news reports of growing use of National Security Letters, which don't even require a judge's approval, to obtain records of electronic communications, credit reports, and financial records. And it leaves in place the much criticized "sneak and peek" provision, which allows the government to secretly search Americans' homes in criminal cases that have nothing to do with terrorism or espionage.
Expect Democrats and some Republicans to insist that they have won some significant improvements to the Patriot Act. Don't believe it. The few minor concessions they got from the White House are a fig leaf to disguise a complete about-face. Thanks to this deal, the White House will be emboldened in its fear-mongering, Democrats will be perceived as timid, and the American people will still face the prospect of government intrusion into their private affairs. Some deal.

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