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Patriot Act: The process of protecting our liberties
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, March 02, 2006

Rep James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) uses USA Today to update us on the civil liberties violations to date pertaining to the Patriot Act and to take a shot at some of its critics:
Zero. That's the number of substantiated USA Patriot Act civil liberties violations. Extensive congressional oversight found no violations.

Six reports by the Justice Department's independent inspector general, who is required to solicit and investigate any allegations of abuse, found no violations.

Intense public scrutiny has yet to find a single civil liberty abuse. Despite many challenges, no federal court has declared unconstitutional any of the Patriot Act provisions Congress is renewing.
He also tells us what the Patriot Act has accomplished to this point and then he says:
Building upon this stellar record, congressional negotiators added more than 30 civil liberty safeguards not included in current law to ensure that the Patriot Act's authorities would not be abused in the future. Remarkably, that's still not enough for some.
The obvious unstated point here is that the Patriot Act was far from perfect. And, given that 30 civil liberties safeguards are being agreed to by both sides of the political spectrum, one assumes they must have been identified as being necessary safeguards. So going back to what Sensenbrenner calls the Patriot Act's "stellar record", one would could argue that it was stellar despite at least 30 possibilities for abuse.

The good news is, no one apparently took advantage of those opportunities (although in the era of BushHitler Chimpy McHalliburton I'm not sure why [/snark]). But it points out why sunset provisions on bills which have the potential to limit or take away liberties are critical. Congress will never pass the perfect piece of legislation. The Patriot Act is certainly no exception. So while it is fine for Sensenbrenner to take some pride in the fact that no violations of civil liberties have been found to have resulted from old version of the bill, we should also be happy that it had to be renewed, and that renewal process made the law less likely than before to violate our civil liberties.

This sort of review process is critical. And grumping about those who find even 30 changes not enough isn't useful. They're critical to the process as well. I'd be much more concerned if critics weren't wanting more changes than if they were satisfied with the current version. In terms of protecting our liberties we now have a better law than we had before and one that will again be reviewed when appropriate for further fine tuning. That's the way this process should work.
 
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...sunset provisions on bills which have the potential to limit or take away liberties are critical
Boy oh boy. I’d love to see this required. Of course, my definition of "limit or take away" liberties may be different than yours.

State helmet and seatbelt laws? Federal/State/Local tax law?

The upside of that requirement would be that Congress would spend so much time reviewing existing legislation up for renewal, that they’d have no time to pass new laws.

...or maybe they’d just rubber-stamp any existing law so they could get on to those new liberty restrictions.

The cynic in me guesses that the latter would be more likely.

I sure do like that sunset provision, though.
 
Written By: W
URL: http://
Heck, all laws ought to have a sunset provision.

If there are few or no (it seems to depend on who’s sayin’) incidents of Patriot Act abuse, perhaps it is because the people are vigiliant, as should be. There’s more than one job a citizen militia can do.
 
Written By: Oldsmoblogger
URL: http://oldsmoblogger.blogspot.com
It’s a mistake, I think, maintaining a separate category of liberty and calling it civil liberty. Liberty is liberty. But when it is designated civil, most people’s minds dredge of thought of racial discrimination and overweening police powers. Losing some ’civil liberty’ now that racism is greatly diminished doesn’t seem such a big deal. Thing is, this ain’t necessarily that. Liberty should denote undifferentiated freedom, and losing any should be tightly restricted and sunsetted without fail.
 
Written By: The Owner’s Manual
URL: http://gcruse.typepad.com
All bills should have sunset provisions, and I would make it a rule that for every bill you pass you have to repeal 2 laws. Also, I would make attach a rider to an unrelated bill that would make it illegal to attach unrelated riders on to bills.

But one of my biggest problems with the patriot act is mission creep. They added provisions on to it, and use it, for drug related law activity.
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
SAVE YOUR POST!!!! I want to see if it holds water in three years! It is hard to imagine that the erosion of civil liberites is to be determined by known violations of the law that curtails civil liberties. What kind of circular logic is that?
Is it still freedom when you do not know you have lost it.....?
 
Written By: Dale
URL: http://
Yet again, one cannot help but be struck by the oddity of a supposedly libertarian site/author offering up justifications for the idea that it’s OK to wait until the evidence is overwhelming (i.e. until it’s too late) that our liberties have been sacrificed before doing anything to protect them. Incredible. Apparently "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are expendable so long as property rights are preserved.
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
Yet again, one cannot help but be struck by the oddity of a supposedly libertarian site/author offering up justifications for the idea that it’s OK to wait until the evidence is overwhelming (i.e. until it’s too late) that our liberties have been sacrificed before doing anything to protect them.
That’s not at all the purpose nor the point, but I suppose if one twists hard enough, they can force that square peg in the round hole.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
I find it sad that you parrot what a government official has to say about the Patriot Act. So, according to Sensenbrenner the government "investigated" itself and declared "not guilty." Imagine my surprise. Just like when the CIA investigated itself over charges of drug dealing and found there was no evidence of such a dastardly crime. Just like when the US Army investigated itself over Abu Ghraib and found itself not guilty except for a few privates it could easily sacrifice to the cause. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, murderers and thieves also will get a chance to investigate themselves and tell the judge, "Not guilty your honor," and walk free.
 
Written By: Curt
URL: http://
You know Curt, this isn’t that hard and I find it sad you didn’t read this carefully enough to understand the point I was making.

What I was pointing out is it doesn’t matter whether there were zero violations as Sensenbrenner claims or 500, laws such as this must be have a sunset provision and be reviewed constantly. That is how we can protect our liberties in time of war when it is natural for government to attempt to limit them in the name of security.

What part of that don’t you understand?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
Why should a law that abridges our constitutional rights exist at all? Why shouldn’t sunset occur daily?
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
Why should a law that abridges our constitutional rights exist at all?
Who said it should?

OTOH, if you’re talking about this particular law, I’m from Missouri ... show me where it has been found to be an unconstitutional abridgement of our liberty.
Why shouldn’t sunset occur daily?
Last time I looked, it did.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/

 
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