Patriot Act Fail Is A Civil Liberties Win, For Now
The House of Representatives failed on Tuesday night to extend three security measures in the post-9/11 Patriot Act, voting 277-148 to push the provisions through 2011, but failing to reach the required two-thirds majority, the Washington Post reports. For those doing math at home, that's seven votes short, meaning the Republicans, who recently took over the House, underestimated their opposition, losing 26 of their own to the 122 Democrats opposing the bill. The provisions, like "roving" FBI wiretaps and the ability to seize library records, are set to expire on February 28. But the defense of such civil liberties is only possible through bipartisanship.
Writing at Salon, civil liberties lawyer and blogger Glenn Greenwald calls last night's vote "surprising (and temporary)" because he believes both sides are the problem:
Partisan devotees of each party generally pretend to care about such liberties only when the other party is in power -- because screaming about abuses of power confers political advantage and enables demonization of the President -- but they quickly ignore or even justify the destruction of those liberties when their own party wields power.
Still, he writes, "last night highlights the potential to subvert the two-party stranglehold on these issues -- through a left-right alliance that opposes the Washington insiders who rule both parties." The split by those on the right against their own party -- and the same from the Democrats, considering the White House supports the bill -- shows at least some "potential" that both "liberal and conservative ideology can and should sustain popular opposition to ongoing reductions in civil liberties."
The Senate, though, will likely pass the bill soon, probably extending the provisions through 2013.