16. December 2005 · Comments Off on Patriot Act Extension Defeated – For Now · Categories: Drug Prohibition, GWOT, Politics

In case you haven’t heard, the cloture vote, to close filibuster in the Senate, on the Patriot Act extension, went down – getting only 52 yeas with 60 required.

I will have to take a look at the actual text of the bill currently on the Senate floor to make a definitive judgement. But my initial reaction to this is positive, as most of what Congress does is pure mischief. But, in this case, as Orin Kerr at Volokh points out, much of this bill (at least at the instant he reviewed it) pulls back the iron hand of government:

For those of us who think of the Patriot Act as actual legislation rather than a symbol of the Bush Administration, this is rather puzzling stuff. The dirty little secret about the Patriot Act is that only about 3% of the Act is controversial, and only about a third of that 3% is going to expire on December 31st. Further, much of the reauthorization actually puts new limits on a number of the controversial non-sunsetting provisions, and some of the sunsetting provisions increased privacy protections. As a result, it’s not immediately obvious to me whether we’ll have greater civil liberties on January 1, 2006 if the Patriot Act is reauthorized or if it is allowed to expire. (To be fair, though, I’d have to run through the effect of every expiring section and all of the reauthorization language to check this – maybe I would feel differently if I did.)

Well, perhaps that’s good – if that’s actually what happens. My greatest problem with the Patriot Act is with its potential for abuse. But I must admit, actual abuses have been rather rare. But they have not been non-existent.

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