The Orator Network
Act Extensions Get Nod
Five Key Points Made Here on Law's "Constitutional Muster"
- February 15, 2011, 8:36 a.m., EST
a turnaround from last Tuesday, when they failed to renew provisions
of the Patriot act, House Republicans succeeded on Monday in extending
the soon-to-expire surveillance provisions of the nation's anti-terrorism
By a vote of 275-144, the House will send the measure -- that would
extend the controversial provisions for nine-months -- to the Democratic-led
Senate for consideration. (Text
and votes of H.R. 514)
The action came a week after House Republican leaders failed to get
the bill approved under a fast-track approach normally reserved for
non-controversial issues, whereby three-quarters of the House membership
must vote Yay for passage of a bill.
The vote came up short by seven votes due to the unexpected opposition
that included 26 Republicans, a number of whom are backed by the Tea
Party Patriots, and 122 Democrats. Opponents on both sides
of the aisle complained that these provisions violate civil liberties
including privacy rights.
Initial defeat surprised Republican leaders and forced them to bring
the bill back under normal procedures that require just a simple majority
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White House officials said it would support the nine-month extension
in the House bill, but would have preferred it to be extended through
December 2013. Critics of the Obama Administration believe the reason
for the desired December 2013 extension is to avoid having the Patriot
Act become an election year issue in 2012.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are pushing for a permanent extension
to provide federal, state and local law enforcement long-term certainty
about what tactics they may employ to identify and capture suspected
The three provisions that failed to pass on February 1, but passed Monday,
included court-approved roving wiretaps that allow surveillance of multiple
phones, court-approved access for the FBI to "any tangible thing"
that could matter to a terrorism investigation and the "lone wolf"
provision that allows secret monitoring of non-U.S. citizens not known
to be connected to a specific terrorist organization.
In a statement from the Heritage
Foundation that supported renewal of the Patriot Act, legal
experts surmised that liberal-left politicians and their supporters
interested in "adding more hoops for investigators to jump through-in
time-sensitive investigations-would kill the law's ability to fulfill
its very purpose: to help stop terrorism."
Heritage analysts provided several legal arguments as a means of garnering
more support from members of Congress and the Senate, which received
the approval of most law enforcement and security organizations such
as the National
Association of Chiefs of Police:
1. It protects civil liberties and provides for the common defense.
The Constitution requires the President and Congress to respect and
defend individual civil liberties but also provide for the common defense.
The Constitution weighs heavily on both sides of the debate over national
security and civil liberties-it is important to recognize both factors.
2. Expectation of privacy is not unlimited. The Supreme
Court has ruled that Americans enjoy a "reasonable" expectation
of privacy; however, this is not an unlimited expectation of privacy.
This means that anything one exposes voluntarily to the public-or even
to a third party-is not considered protected. Congress of course can
expand these rights (and it has repeatedly); however, these protections
yield to criminal and national security investigations.
3. The law provides significant safeguards. The PATRIOT
Act does not provide investigators with unfettered power to spy on innocent
Americans. What it does do is ensure that national security investigators
have the same tools at their disposal to investigate terrorists that
law enforcement agents have to investigate and prosecute drug dealers
and rapists. These tools come with significant procedural safeguards,
oversight, and reporting requirements and are subject to routine and
aggressive oversight by the FISA court and Congress.
4. It has passed constitutional muster. No single provision
of the PATRIOT Act has ever been found unconstitutional. This is a testament
to the act's limited applicability, procedural safeguards, and extensive
oversight mechanisms-as well as the fact that it often provides more
protections than are afforded in criminal proceedings.
5. Disagreements over the role of government are different from
actual abuse. Mere expansion of executive authority in the context
of national security investigations alone does not in itself create
actual abuse. Certainly, there are fundamental disagreements over the
role of the executive branch during wartime. However, careful monitoring
and vigilant oversight are oftentimes the answer to potential abuses
of power-not all-out prohibition.
Kouri, CPP, is currently a Board Member of the National Association
of Chiefs of Police as well as an author, columnistand commentator,
appearing on over 100 local and national television and radio talk
shows. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden
Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.