Monday, June 13, 2005



I'm not willing, yet, to read too much intoJames Sensenbrenner's thuggish shutting down of the House Judiciary Committee hearng on the USA PATRIOT Act, given that he is an old man and probably just really REALLY had to go to the bathroom. I would certainly have preferred if every single Democrat on the panel and every expert had kept their eyes on the prize of bringing ACTUAL attention to the ACTUAL problems of the USA PATRIOT Act, even if there's no hope of actually winning the argument that day. In fact, it most likely worked out well for the Dems as now we can focus attention on the bizarro world that is your GOP leadership.

However, I would be remiss not to comment on one point. If you watch the video, Sensenbrenner says that nobody was really talking about the USA PATRIOT Act except the one dude who said librarians had been visited by law enforcement under Section 215 of the Act. Sensenbrenner then says "well I want the NAMES of those librarians and the specifics of those visits!!!"

Conveniently neglecting the point that if any librarian or other target of a Section 215 search were to be willing to "come out" about a PATRIOT Act search, they could immediately be arrested and charged with violating the odious gag order provision of said act. GOT THAT, SENSENBRENNER?? Now you COULD promise to grant immunity to anyone who has been subject to a 215 search -- have you done that? Or you could just support amending the Act to remove the gag order provision. But y'aren't gonna do that, are ya, Tex?

But the point isn't really whether librarians have been getting these visits by the FBI (particularly given the fact that I believe the FBI is lying low in overusing these powers until the act is reauthorized). The point is that without reasonable restrictions on police powers in a society, the police will at some point use all the powers in their arsenal. People will go as far as the rules allow them to. Defense attorneys, football players, toddlers, political fundraisers. The mere act of setting limits serves to set the frame of not just what's allowable, but what's acceptable.

Sensenbrenner and Gonzales and Bush and the rest want us to believe that it's okay for the FBI to have massively expanded police powers, including powers that directly contravene the protections against a police state that we've built up over hundreds of years, because they say they won't USE those powers inappropriately. I say, give us enough rope and we'll hang our fool selves.

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