Senate action on the Patriot Act

(See here) this MSNBC article on renewal of the Patriot Act.

I am going to comment on this article from two vantage points. First the action of the Senate, and then the reporting of whoever put the article together.

First I want to commend the Senate for the 6 month extension of the Patriot Act. I myself preferred the 3 month extension that had been proposed, but I guess the 6 month extension is acceptable. In fact, there is at least one advantage to a 6 month extension. When Congress again takes up extending the act, it will be very close to mid term elections, so perhaps Congress will be more concerned about what the average voter thinks when they decide what to do about it.

As for Dubyah and the Republican leadership threatening to not compromise (which still is a possibility) and forcing a showdown? If this had happened, or if it happens, I would/will blame the Republicans. Democrats (and some Republicans) are willing to compromise by extending the act as it is for several months to allow work to continue on the final result. I do not see a problem with this, and if Republican leadership refuses to compromise and forces the act to expire without an extension, then Republican leadership is to blame. In my opinion, one of the reasons an expiration date is put in there is to force Congress to reconsider and debate the powers that are granted. If some members of Congress want more time for consideration and debate, I do not have a problem with that.

Now for the reporting. I noticed that the reporter uses the word permanent, as in "to make most of the anti-terrorism law permanent". Other reports talk only of extending the act for another 4 years, which would hardly be permanent.

Merriam-Webster defines permanent as - "continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change". However the Oxford English dictionary defines it as - "lasting or intending to last indefinitely; not temporary". As the word is used in common language I give the nod to the Oxford as when we speak of a "permanent" magnet or a "permanent" address.

At least when I hear the word "permanent" it makes me think it is being passed without an expiration date. If the act is extended for 4 years, this would be OK with me since it is not "permanent". If the act is extended without an expiration date, I would be against it because I am not ready for all of it to become "permanent".

I at least think that reporters who use the word "permanent" are being less then clear as they report upon what is being considered. Is it too much to ask them to quit contributing to the confusion?


Blogger Michael said...

I agree that inaccurate reporting often confuses the issue.

However, the rhetoric should be addressed. I think that it is agreed among most people that the powers of the Patriot Act are not acceptable for a civil democracy in peacetime. Many people argue that they are no longer acceptable now (and possibly were never acceptable).

Arguments by the Bush Administration on the "necessity" of these laws are by large facile. "Secret police" type monitoring of arbitrary sectors of the domestic population, without the requirement of judicial oversight should not be a "vital" component of law enforcement.

Michael Tam
vitualis' Medical Rants

12/22/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

Well, a good portion of the American population still views us as being "at war".

It is possible that many of the powers granted under the Patriot Act have prevented further attacks. I would hate to have the powers revoked, and then, a few years from now have another attack occur only to have law enforcement say "If we had still had the Patriot Act we could have prevented it."

Some of what the Patriot Act allows is just common sense. Roving wire taps for example. If a judge authorizes a wire tap of a suspect's phone I do not see why it should not include any cell phone or pay phone he happens to use.

Other portions just allow various intelligence agencies to share information.

There are portions that still require, at a minimum, Congressional oversight, such as the ability to request library records etc. Some of the powers granted do give me pause, and it appears that these powers are the ones most often being debated in Congress.

12/23/2005 04:57:00 AM  

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