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Patriot Act Hullabaloo, Big Sky Style

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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February 24, 2006

As the Patriot Act barrels toward final voting, the fight to attach genuine reforms is also in its endgame, with a flurry of amendments and related debates still possible next week.

Senator Feingold again deserves kudos for taking a stand for added privacy protections. Unlike his principled solo stance in 2001, this time he has found himself joined by the odd pairing of Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, and independent Senator Jim Jeffords from Vermont.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (literally), the Montana State Library caved to local pressure from a handful of people and canceled a screening of the ACLU’s new national television series, The ACLU Freedom Files (check your local cable listings). The screening event was picked up almost immediately by the Lewis and Clark Library, nearby in Helena.

‘Librarians understand that every book tells a story,’ said Scott Crichton, ACLU of Montana Executive Director. ‘They defend and discuss books that some would ban. Likewise, every film also tells a story. ‘Beyond the Patriot Act’ shows how this sweeping and misguided law affects ordinary Americans. The federal government has had four years to make its case. Now it’s time for the people to hear the other side of the debate.’

On the NSA front, the White House continues to face pressure from Congress over legislation governing the surveillance. Though the Bush Administration has continually argued that new legislation is unnecessary’ because the president, they claim, already had legal authority to conduct the surveillance’ it looks like that bullheadedness may be cracking under the strain.

Also check out The Nation piece about the similarities between the illegal NSA surveillance and the ongoing torture scandal, notably the revelations recently that the Navy’s general counsel fought a determined internal battle to stop the abuse.