Also posted at The Next Hurrah
I think one of the more chilling websites around is lifeandliberty.gov - not for its overt content, but for its name. That's the PATRIOT Act website, with a nice little passage from the Declaration of Independence at the very top, with the header "Preserving Life & Liberty".
"USA PATRIOT" stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism."
As you know, one of the many controversial things about the PATRIOT Act is that it provides broad (and some say, nearly unchecked) power to law enforcement to monitor activities of anyone they even remotely suspect of being a terrorist, or terrorist sympathizer. This definition is broad enough to include investigation of antiwar protesters by the FBI's anti-terrorism task force. The Act allows for delayed-notice search warrants, secret search warrants for the examination of library records, increased ease of implementing wiretaps, and a host of other things.
Well, there's something that has slipped under the radar this week:
A Senate committee said on Tuesday it would start the process of renewing the USA Patriot Act, which expanded security powers after the Sept. 11 attacks, but ran into criticism for holding the meetings in secret.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said it would hold a closed markup session on Thursday, the first legislative step toward a reauthorization vote long sought by Republicans including President Bush.
That's a pretty short article; the ACLU news release has a little more information:
Members of Congress have until the end of the year to review and modify the Patriot Act, but some lawmakers hope to steamroll the entire process through Congress in the next few weeks. This closed-door markup is an indication that some in Congress are trying to rush through legislation, and keep the public in the dark.
Should we be suspicious that they are trying to push this through as fast as possible? Is it just a kneejerk reflex to be alarmed that the government's police powers have been substantially broadened since September 11, 2001? How many "terrorists" have actually been caught and convicted in the Unites States, thanks to the PATRIOT Act?
What will the next four years bring?