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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Udall: Reauthorizing Patriot Act Is Mistake; NM Congressional Dems Vote No

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), took to the Senate floor last Wednesday to reaffirm his opposition to the Patriot Act, saying that the law undermines the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens (see video clip above). Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also spoke against the rushed reauthorization. Thank goodness at least a few Senators spoke out to demand some serious debate about this controversial law and question its validity ten years since 9-11. However, not enough others in Congress seemed to be listening -- not to mention President Obama.

Udall’s remarks came as the Senate prepared to vote on a four-year reauthorization of the three controversial provisions within the law that fail to protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans and do nothing to guard against potential abuse. Those provisions are: roving wiretaps, government access to ‘any tangible items’ such as library or business records and the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

NM Congressional Dems Vote No
Unfortunately, on Thursday, the reauthorization passed the House by a margin of 250 to 153 and passed the Senate by a vote of 72 to 23. The legislation was quickly signed by the president -- via autopen from France. Not good. However, I'm very pleased to report that the entire Democratic congressional delegation from New Mexico -- Represenatives Martin Heinrich (NM-01) and Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) and Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman -- all voted against the measure.

As Sen. Udall explained in a written statement, The Patriot Act –- which was first passed nearly a decade ago in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks –- did not receive the necessary congressional debate and scrutiny before it was passed. Only after Congress blindly expedited the passage of the far-reaching piece of legislation, was its power to undermine the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens revealed.

Ten Years Later
Udall, a member of the House of Representatives at the time, expressed deep concerns about the bill –- and was one of only 66 members to vote against its passage.

“Almost ten years later, we still haven’t had the debate that we need to have on this piece of legislation. The world’s greatest deliberative body has not weighed in with amendments. We have not moved forward in a serious way to try and tackle this piece of legislation that is so important to our country, to our freedom, to our liberty,”Udall said during his floor remarks.

Udall also voted against a procedural maneuver in the Senate that would allow quick consideration and passage of the reauthorization, and noted that he voted against final passage in part because it had not been thoroughly debated –- or had an adequate opportunity to be amended –- by the full Senate.

In 2009, Udall helped introduce the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act to address those concerns.

“To govern in a post-9/11 world, we have to strike the delicate balance of thwarting the terrorist actions of some, without infringing on the constitutional guarantees of the vast many. We are failing to strike that balance today by forcing this reauthorization of the Patriot Act without scrutinizing the long-term ramifications of the law,” Udall said. 

ACLU Files FOIA Request
Meanwhile, the ACLU today filed a new Freedom of Information request demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government's use and interpretation of Section 215, which is perhaps the most controversial of the provisions that Congress reauthorized. It allows the FBI to obtain “any tangible things” -- like business records about customers. The organization anticipates litigating the request. The battle for civil liberties in America continues unabated.

May 31, 2011 at 03:01 PM in Civil Liberties, Homeland Security, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Terrorism | Permalink

Comments

It's horrible that Congress is so willing to rubber stamp Obama's push to be more like George Bush than Bush himself. I'm proud that our D delegation stood up to all of them and most of all for our constitutional rights. What the hell is wrong with the rest of them and with all the Ds who continue backing Obama like he's a progressive hero?

Posted by: Speak Out! | May 31, 2011 4:42:00 PM

Thanks New Mexico Dems for standing up for Privacy. Obama will not get my vote again.

Posted by: George | Jun 5, 2011 1:02:23 PM