When last we left our "heroes," it was December 2005. A bipartisan group of Senators had filibustered to prevent reauthorization of a version of the Patriot Act that did nothing to protect civil liberties. By February 3rd, Congress must reconsider the Act, or 16 of its provisions expire. And of course, there's considerable pressure from the executive branch not to let that happen. So, we have to re-motivate ourselves on this subject.
We continue to get more and more evidence that the president's lust for power is limitless. And arguably without principle. Here's a small opportunity, though, to curtail him just a bit.
A loose coalition of groups (including the ACLU, the ALA, and others) is organizing tomorrow, January 25, as National call-In Day regarding The Patriot Act. Specifically, there are three changes that they are pushing for:
- Language in section 215 (the "business records" or "library" provision) requiring a statement of fact linking the person whose records are sought to an actual terrorism investigation -no "fishing", in other words;
- Language allowing a section 215 recipient (the library, for example) to file a meaningful challenge to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court order; and
- Language allowing a section 505 recipient to pose a meaningful challenge to a National Security Letter.
I would love it, too, if we could look at Section 214, which enhances the federal authority to exact the death penalty. Should it pass as written, it could be imposed even when the defendant had no intention of killing or recklessly endangering human life. Section 211 adds 25 crimes to the roster of crimes eligible for the death penalty. It seems to be the general consensus that either provision would violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, but again there seems to be an odd disregard for niceties like that lately.
There's one thing, though, that I'm delighted about in this whole political process. We now have the phrase Radical Militant Librarian in our collection of great phrases. Go here: ALA to buy a Radical Militant Librarian button and to benefit the ALA's efforts to foster intellectual freedom. And call your Senators and Representative and urge them to adopt the provisions of the Senate's version of the USA Patriot Act's reauthorization.