One opinion on the Protect America Act offers a viewpoint that caught my eye. On the other hand, there were lots of opinions about this in posts.
While I agree with my colleagues, Dennis Lormel and Jeffrey Breinholt, that renewal of the Protect America Act should be considered by Congress as urgent and serious business, it’s misplaced to ascribe current delays to merely “playing politics.”
Few pieces of legislation before Congress carry such gravity and importance when it comes to the twin goals of protecting our national security and preserving our civil liberties. Such matters should be considered with gravity and thorough deliberation. And there is much in this act which deserves further deliberation. Many of its current provisions were adopted previously under an atmosphere of high tension and great pressure from the White House. The only pressure now is that President Bush threatens to veto any further temporary extension of the current act. A temporary extension would certainly have kept in place sufficient authority to keep tabs on the potential terrorists within our midst as Congress worked through the act thoroughly.
And, as Richard Clarke wrote earlier this month in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year. “Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction. Instead – even though Congress extended the Protect America Act by two weeks – he is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast his political opponents in a negative light. “For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.”
So what is the current debate in Congress really about? It’s about just how deeply we really need to encroach on our civil liberties to assure our national security, and on the extent of the protections, checks and balances, that should remain in place to limit police power infringements of civil and privacy rights to those truly warranted by the circumstances. History has shown, including our own national history, that we must constantly assure that such adequate protections, checks and balances, are in place. And, I believe, that using our courts to hold those that usurp or violate these inherently dangerous authorities responsible, is an essential protection. The 52 lawsuits now pending before the US courts would test, specifically, whether such usurpation actually occurred. And, if a government agency, or those complicit with it, did usurp or abuse their authority, or make a serious mistake, unduly infringing our rights(and I hope that it will be found that this is not the case), they should pay for their misdeeds just as we would expect any of our neighbors or business colleagues to do.
It is this ability of simple citizens to hold government and private entities and individuals liable for their misdeeds that best assures that they will act responsibly.
Several readers thought Angry Bear was becoming an echo chamber for the lefties. So I went to Red State, a blog decidedly not lefty, and found this site on their blogroll. Of course, since I did the looking, I brought back an opinion by one expert I agree with. You will have to go there for yourself to find other opinions and viewpoints.