American Elephants

Fear of Big Brother? That Was So Yesterday! by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration is slowly learning about terrorism, this time with key provisions of the Patriot Act up for reauthorization before they sunset on Friday. Previous extensions have been political dogfights, but this time everyone, according to the Wall Street Journal is “acting awfully grown-up:”

While the liberal blogosphere is still peddling the Big Brother meme, the Obama Administration is now in full-throated support. Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month that it is “absolutely essential” that the provisions be reauthorized and that “we never want to see these acts, these provisions, expire.” Allowing them to sunset regularly is “not helpful” and hurts intelligence gathering, he added. “Our prosecutors or investigators need certainty” and “if they were done on a permanent basis, that is not something we would object to.”The renewal debate involves three sections of the law, known as “business records,” “lone wolf” and “roving wiretap,” which have become key tools of antiterror law enforcement. The first lets investigators gather business records related to international terrorism, the second to track aspiring terrorists acting alone, and the third to stay on top of subjects who try to evade surveillance.

These special powers are important to law enforcement because they provide greater latitude than so-called Title III wiretaps, which require disclosure to the target. The lone wolf designation likewise allows intelligence agencies to stay on offense against terrorists who may not have previously shown any sympathy for al Qaeda or jihadist causes.

The seething left has always presumed that anything connected with something called “The Patriot Act” must be a law designed to let the government spy on you and your neighbors. I’m sure you heard that at some point. The liberal conspiracy theory was that “Republicans were engaged in an unlawful crusade to turn the U.S. into a police state. The Patriot Act can now join Guantanamo, military commissions, unlimited detention, drone strikes, the state secrets doctrine and Middle Eastern democracy as Bush policies that Obama has embraced one way or another.”

There are careful legal guards in each of the three provisions specifically designed to protect civil liberties. Requests to look at business records must be authorized by the special FISA court. In order to get permission for a roving wiretap, an FBI agent has to apply to the ISA court and show probable cause to believe that the target is a terrorist, a foreign terrorist organization or a spy.  The government really isn’t interested in the dalliances, licit or illicit, of ordinary folk.

Senate leaders have agreed to extend all three provisions for four years. Will wonders never cease.

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