Back in 2005, Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) was up in arms about the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. So much so that she issued a press release to highlight her opposition within the House of Representatives. In it she stated:
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, Chief Deputy Whip, delivered a statement in the House of Representatives urging her colleagues to vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Representative Schakowsky has continually fought to limit the expansive new powers the Patriot Act grants federal agencies such as allowing them to secretly search personal records, including medical and library records, and permitting law enforcement officers to install roving wiretaps without specifying a suspect or telephone.
“Mr. Speaker, I voted against the PATRIOT Act four years ago and I remain opposed to it. While I support a number of the tools the PATRIOT Act grants to law enforcement in the fight to combat terrorism, it went too far in eroding important civil liberties, limiting the right to due process, and unnecessarily targeting immigrants.”
“The Constitution that I carry is not a Republican document, it’s not a Democratic document, it’s an American document that we want to preserve. The PATRIOT Act is an affront to our civil rights and civil liberties, as guaranteed by our Constitution.”
Oh yeah, you tell ’em sister! Interesting language, because it seems pretty obvious that you see things entirely in partisan terms. While you voted against the Patriot Act in 2001, it has now become abundantly clear that you would have voted in favor of it with a smile if your lord and savior Barack Obama had been in office at the time. Just like you voted NO on the Amash amendment yesterday. I haven’t seen a statement from your office on that vote yet, but I look forward to it.
Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) was equally outraged back in 2005 over the Patriot Act. He also issued a statement at the time. Here are some choice excerpts:
Mr. Chairman, I rise to explain my decision to vote against the Conference Report on the Patriot Act. Some of the provisions that are being reauthorized in this bill provide law enforcement officials with important tools that may be helpful in detecting and disrupting terrorist activities. I support those provisions. Other provisions, however, fail to provide adequate safeguards to ensure that the privacy rights of innocent citizens are protected. It is very important that, in our effort to defend the liberties that Americans cherish, we not enact measures that erode the very freedoms we seek to protect. We can ensure that the government has the necessary surveillance powers without sacrificing the privacy rights of Americans.
The “National Security Letters” provision:
This authorization has NO SUNSET.
It provides no judicial review of a National Security Letter gag order. This is a departure from current law which allows the recipient of such a Letter to challenge it in court. The conference agreement requires the court to accept the government’s assertion as “conclusive.”
Moreover, the conference report allows the government to maintain information gathered from the National Security Letters to be kept forever in government databases.
“Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” (FISA) Court Orders for Tangible Things (Section 215):
Unlike the Senate bill, the Conference Report allows the government to obtain personal information on a mere showing of “relevance,” thereby striking the safeguard contained in the Senate passed bill that required a three-part test. This allows the government to obtain this information without demonstrating that the information that they are seeking has some connection to a terrorist or a spy.
The conference report does not permit the recipient of a section 215 order to challenge its automatic, permanent gag order. Courts have held that similar restrictions violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Finally, the conference report allows the government to use secret evidence to oppose a judicial challenge to a section 215 order. The court must review any government submission in secret, whether or not it contains classified material.
Amazingly, Mr. Van Hollen singled out as highly problematic the exact section of the Patriot Act, section 215, that was specifically addressed in the Amash amendment. So he must have voted yes on the amendment yesterday, right? Wrong.
It takes a special kind of hack to feign such concern about civil liberties when a Republican is in power, and then shamelessly discard all of those values once a Democrat is in office.
h/t to Trevor Timm at the EFF for brining this to my attention.
*Note: Since publishing this piece, it has come to my attention that there were at least 13 Representatives that have been publicly against parts of the Patriot act in the past, who voted NO on the Amash amendment. Had they voted in line with their so-called “principles” it would have passed. A list of them can be found here.
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