Addendum: I guess the folks claiming Democrats want to repeal those PATRIOT provisions missed the Senate’s hearings, where Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says, right around 165 minutes in:
Your testimony concludes in very all-or-nothing fashion that the roving wiretap authority, the 215 order authority, and the lone wolf authority should all be continued, should be reauthorized. I don’t know that there’s any doubt anywhere in this committee that that’s the case. I think the question more is in reauthorizing them, are there further refinements?
Update: Looks like we can add Dick Morris and Eileen McGann of TownHall to the list of bold PATRIOT Act defenders who play pundit without the most rudimentary idea of what they’re talking about. I would love to be able to have the serious argument about whether and why safeguards or oversight should be structured a certain way, but PATRIOT boosters need to stop making the same tedious set of basic factual errors first…
Yet liberal Democrats are fighting the renewal of the roving wiretap authority as part of a broad offensive against the very PATRIOT Act provisions that have kept us safe (often by narrow margins) since 9-11.
Funnily enough, no. Go read Russ Feingold’s bill: Roving wiretap authority is in it. Needless to say, it’s in every other bill Democrats have proposed as well. Exactly nobody is arguing against the renewal of this power. There’s some argument over how precisely a FISA warrant should have to specify a particular target before it gets to “rove” over multiple phonelines and accounts, but no real dispute about the existence of the power as such.
Other liberal targets include the statute that allows terror investigators to apply for court orders to search business records in national security investigations. The Democrats want to limit this authority to instances in which investigators can prove that their target is an agent of a foreign power.
Strike two. The proposal—which is sadly not even in the Democratic bill at present—was to require investigators to have some reason—a “reasonable basis”—to believe the target is an agent of a foreign power. Or in contact with a foreign power. Or that the records at least relate to the “activities” of a foreign power. Any one would do.
Another sunsetting provision under attack is the so-called “lone wolf authority,” which allows investigators to launch a probe even if they cannot prove, before they start, that the target is connected to a terrorist group. Again, the liberals would put the horse before the cart and demand proof before an inquiry could begin.
This is so stupid I’m almost embarrassed for them. Even under the “lone wolf” provision you need probable cause to believe your target is engaged in (or preparing to engage in) terrorist acts—a significantly higher standard than the “reasonable basis” I mentioned earlier. You need this “probable cause”—not normally referred to as “proof”—because we live in a funny old “free society” where we expect the government to obtain “warrants” based on “evidence” before they enjoy the ability to break into people’s homes or tap their phones. The truly terrifying thing is that the authors, apparently misapprehending current law, seem to think this too high a bar—to think that investigators do and should enjoy Stasilike powers that even in the post-9/11 panic Congress was too sane to contemplate. Obviously, investigators do have other means of acquiring evidence (or “launching probes”) in order to establish the probable cause for a FISA warrant, which confers those extraordinary powers of electronic surveillance and physical search.
The fact is that there has not been a single instance of reported abuse of these investigative powers by counter-terrorist agents.
Did they even Google? Do they assume their readers are too stupid to Google? Two consecutive Inspector General reports found rampant misuse of National Security Letters. Russ Feingold has suggested that classified briefings have disclosed uses of 215 orders that he considers abuses—though they haven’t been reported to the rest of us, being classified and all.
Seriously, it’s one thing to be wrong on an issue, or even to make an error or two in the course of a column. It’s quite another to purport to inform people about a topic without doing the kind of elementary research you’d expect from a half-bright highschooler turning in a homework assignment. Aren’t any of the site’s visitors even a little offended by this level of brazen contempt for the audience?