USA PATRIOT Act renewed, no new civil liberties protections


Kevin Bankston at the EFF blogs,

Yesterday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to renew three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, after the Senate abandoned the PATRIOT reform effort and approved the extension by a voice vote on Wednesday night.

Disappointingly, the government's dangerously broad authority to conduct roving wiretaps of unspecified or "John Doe" targets, to secretly wiretap of persons without any connection to terrorists or spies under the so-called "lone wolf" provision, and to secretly access a wide range of private business records without warrants under PATRIOT Section 215 were all renewed without any new checks and balances to prevent abuse.

EFF: Epic Fail in Congress: USA PATRIOT Act Renewed Without Any New Civil Liberties Protections

[Image: Patriot Act, a Creative Commons-licensed illustration by Wiretap Studios, large version here.]


  1. Well, once again, those Democrats in whom we placed so much hope (I include the President) have demonstrated complete spinelessness in confronting the fear mongering right.

  2. In the immortal words of Samuel Johnson:

    “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”

    He also said: “”It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy; he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities…”

    1. “In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.” – Ambrose Bierce

  3. The National Reconnaissance Office was formed in 1961. Patriot Act or not, there is no such thing as privacy anymore.

  4. One of the least Patriotic acts passed in the last 50 years (I’d call it anti-American) gets renewed? Good job spineless Congress.

  5. But… but… this looks like it means that whichever of the two main US parties you vote for, you get pretty much the same thing, despite all the pre-election rhetoric saying otherwise!

  6. Hey now guys,

    Let’s be fair. Neither Obama nor any prominent Democrat Party leader ever promised any major changes to the PATRIOT Act. Obama made no campaign promises on this.

    I’m all for people criticizing the Gov’t, but let’s remember that Obama was never against the act during the elections.

    1. Just because the Democrats never promised to do the right thing, doesn’t mean we should be ok with them not doing it. As far as I remember, Bush had never made any promises to preserve civil liberties either.

    2. His campaign promise was “Change”. Of course, he didn’t specify change of *what*, so people wrongly assumed he would change whatever they didn’t like.

  7. I like it! Thanks, Government! I’m with you on this one! If I see something, I’ll let you know! Glad the taxes I pay – the full amount every single year I might add – helps you protect a total and complete nobody like me! I love you! Gotta run!

  8. Who was it that said “Once the state has been given power the leader will be loathe to lose them again.”?

    The problem is not Obama. The problem is that Obama is attempting to rule over the United States of America in its current dysfunctional state:

    1.) It’s taken 200+ years, but politicians have found ways to exploit Jefferson’s take on democracy. With the balance in the senate set up the way it currently is, it only takes one senator to monkeywrench a law. That’s an awful lot of power for a “swing voter”, and it probably means Obama will be a lame duck president (pity, as many of his ideas would have really helped).

    2.) It has become a novelty to see a rational discussion between democrats and republicans in the US. Even news outlets are designed to cater to only one side while alienating the other. This is probably FOX news’ fault, but it’s not just them anymore.

    3.) New England settlers left behind Europe’s class system only to replace it with one entirely based on money. Every presidential election for as far back as anyone living can remember has been one by the candidate with the most money.

    4.) This equation of money=power probably goes some distance towards explaining why American healthcare for the average citizen is only marginally better than the Third World, yet it is the most expensive on Earth.

    With all this, is it any wonder why China doesn’t listen to us when we tell them that Democracy is better than their own system?

  9. A government based on power over its people will always seek more power, as power = survival/expansion.

    This is not a question of party colors, it’s a question of core values and principles.

    To the government, releasing its powers feels like losing its freedom. Without an equally strong force opposing the natural power increase built-in, the government will naturally expand towards more and more power.

    Not good or bad, just so.

  10. If you’re not happy and you know it say, “Awwww Maaaaan”. It’s/he’s becoming like a parody of Bush/administration, and yes that is worse as I had expectations.

  11. Damn, the Dems and Reps are agreeing on something. I was getting ready to enjoy you Americans have another good ole civil war, but I guess that’s just going to have to wait.

  12. Whoa, you must have missed the memo. Liberal bloggers don’t give a shit about the PATRIOT Act anymore. Hooray bipartisan consensus!

    1. I did miss that memo. Would you care to share it? You know, the memo where “liberal bloggers” don’t give a shit about civil liberties anymore?

      Really like to see that memo you’ve got there. Maybe you can pull it out of your…


      Also, let it be known that the other poster in this thread named Sea Daddy isn’t surprised by any of this and thinks we all are confounded or something. Thank you, Sea Daddy, for being the pleasantly scented candle of clarity in the darkness of our confusion.

  13. This is even more overtly slimy and backhanded than the Democratic Party’s usual MO.

    “Oh we really wanted to make changes but those MEAN OL Republicans blocked us… except that literally all we had to do was block the bill’s renewal ourselves but instead we just went and actively chose to reapprove the entire damn thing, on a voice vote just to scotch any actual record tying us to our shameful, citizen-hating bullshit”.

    They’re usually much more careful about sacrificing all their leverage and THEN pretending it’s the awful Republicans stopping them doin’ what needs doing, but now they’re trying to pretend the Republicans are blocking them at the same time as they wholeheartedly endorse the Republican agenda.

  14. They should put a check box on Form 1040s that asks if you want $3 of your federal tax to go to the Personal CIA/FBI File Distribution Fund. When you check “yes”, three of your tax dollars are placed in the Personal CIA/FBI File Distribution Fund and you receive a copy of your CIA/FBI file in 6-8 weeks via email. Checking this box will not increase your tax or reduce your refund.

  15. No new protections because the point is to wipe out civil liberties. The recent court decision to allow unlimited corporate political campaign contributions will wipe out the middle class and intensify all American war efforts. They’re getting ready to snuff out any disent over this. The patriot act is the perfect weapon. America is in the process of becming a facist country. Soon our representatives will be sporting corporate logos.

  16. 1) The reauthorization of the three provisions of the Patriot Act were passed in a voice vote — a coward’s way to avoid criticism.
    2) The Senate voice vote was unanimous. That means every Democratic Senator either voted for it or wasn’t present to protest — even Al Franken.
    3) Speaking of Franken, BB posted this in October: He seems to be ok with roving wiretaps now.
    4) In the house, there were two national figures (and 95 others) who voted *against* the reauthorization: Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.

  17. The only way to fix this country is to educate yourself… then educate your neighbor.

    How can you stand up for your rights… if you don’t know what they are?

    The current issues we’re facing have roots that extend back to the turn of the century and it’s not “This Party” or “That Party”s fault. It goes much deeper than that.

    Do an internet search for “archive constitution class” and…..Educate Yourself!

    Then Educate your Neighbor!

  18. Did any of you “dems are the same as republicans!!” people even read teh damn article?

    “Democrats had sought changes to protect law-abiding U.S. citizens, but Republicans managed to tie up their efforts, arguing that changes would undermine the tracking of suspected enemies of the United States.”

    Republicans are only “small government” when it comes to taxes. but civil liberties isnt even in their vocabulary.

  19. Thanks Talia!

    Was about to post a knee jerk Dem bashing comment, but you saved me. :)

    Seems the Dems couldn’t get a filibuster proof 60+…

    Democratic leaders’ push for reform fizzled in the face of staunch Republican opposition buoyed by recent hot-button events such as the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day and the shooting at Fort Hood.

    Where’s my small government now?

  20. Talia, ADavies,

    Are you kidding? You do realize that Senate Democrats have the ability to vote “no,” right? You do understand that the only options here were *not* “vote yes with the privacy protections” and “vote yes without the privacy protections.” Please, oh, please tell me you understand that. The whole “couldn’t get a supermajority” thing is laughable — if the Democrats didn’t want the bill without privacy protections, they could have voted “no.” Obama signed this into law. He could have vetoed it. I really don’t know how much clearer it can be. Below is a good recap of just how cowardly the Senate is.

  21. And I didn’t mean to to seem angry or to imply anything good about the Republicans here. They are (with only a handful of exceptions) reprehensible. But for once, I would like to see progressives judging Democratic lawmakers by their deeds and not by their empty rhetoric. This is an incredibly easy opportunity to do exactly that.

    If John McCain were Prez and the Reps controlled Congress, and the exact same reauthorization happened in the same way, progressives would (rightly) be raising Holy Hell. I’m just a bit that this story isn’t front page news, and that civil liberty violations are now met with bipartisan approval.

  22. This reminds me of the 6 years Republicans held the reins on our government – I kept thinking, ‘Now were Really get some changes made!’ NOT! Politicians are all bad – I don’t trust a millionaire/billionaire that wants to ‘serve’ his constituents for a few hundred thou a year.

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