Tomorrow, a chance to fix FISA and the PATRIOT Act
This Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing marking up the Leahy PATRIOT Act extension bill is the best chance yet for significant reform. As well as limiting the use of sneak-and-peak warrants and National Security Letters, it bars "bulk collection" under FISA and holds telecom companies accountable for past abuses. A broad coalition including EFF, the ACLU, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the American Library association and many other organizations support Senator Feingold’s JUSTICE Act, a comprehensive package of reforms. The key question for Thursday is how many will be added to Leahy’s more limited bill.
Over the next two days, we need to pressure Democrats on the SJC to add provisions from the JUSTICE Act during markup — and Senators to sign on as co-sponsors to the JUSTICE Act.
The PATRIOT Act (and the resulting telecom immunity FISA deal) were perhaps the largest miscarriages of the rule of law and our Constitution that Bush every countenanced. These anti-American laws were pushed through after 9/11 using fear and terrorist propaganda, and they were renewed with the help of deluded Democrats buying into right-wing frames.
But it’s a new era, and progressive ideas have more of a chance in Congress now than they’ve had in a while. Though we still face long odds, as the health care battle makes clear, the renewal of the PATRIOT Act that is coming up represents a better chance for reform that respects our Constitution than we’ve had or will have in years.
Jon has all kinds of things you can do to support the effort here. But most importantly, pick up the phone and call your Senators. Ask them to support the JUSTICE Act and a return to our Constitution. (Talking points are here for you to use.) And then watch the hearing live.
Take action, then come back here and tell me what you’re thinking.