It’s not getting a lot of pickup, but this Thursday’s markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee really could be the single most significant privacy and surveillance event of the Obama administration. There has to be a vote on the renewal of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions. Thursday will determine whether the renewal legislation is in the mold of a relatively modest bill proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy or includes some of the hugely important safeguards in Russ Feingold’s broad and ambitious JUSTICE Act. My wonky survey of the major differences between the bills, and the issues at stake, is over at the Cato blog. I know everyone’s got healthcare on the brain, but holy hot damn this is important. If those pro–civil liberties measures don’t get locked in to the Senate’s bill this week, the odds of ever getting them, at least in the foreseeable future and absent another Church Committee, look pretty damn slim. I’ll be writing about this in various venues all week; the Get Fisa Right movement from back in the presidential campaign is already getting revved up again.
Addendum: ACLU’s Michael Macleod-Ball has a write-up at his Hill blog. Downsize DC is making it easy to contact your representatives in Congress.