Saturday, October 1, 2011

John Conyers fights Patriot Act extension: It's 'one of the worst laws this body has ever passed'

John Conyers fights Patriot Act extension: It's 'one of the worst laws this body has ever passed'

john-conyers-ap.jpgHouse Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Detroit).
Calling the Patriot Act "one of the worst laws this body has ever passed," U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) is joining with House Republicans to spearhead a charge to end the controversial Patriot Act. In a move that stunned some political observers, Conyers and House Dems worked this week with the GOP representatives, including many Tea Party favorites, to defeat efforts to extend key portions of the act.

Feb. 9, New York Times: “Most members had not thought much about this before yesterday afternoon,” Mr. Andrews said, adding that he talked to Representative John Conyers, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on the House floor just before Tuesday’s vote. “Mr. Conyers persuaded a lot of people that this had been a rushed process here."

In addition to those Democrats, 26 Republicans voted against the bill, which would have extended for nine months the government’s ability to conduct roving wiretaps of terror suspects, as well as the “lone wolf” provision and a provision easing access to business records. Without an extension all three will expire on Feb. 28.
Given that Conyers has been critical of the act, his opposition to the extensions seems unsurprising — until you consider that he has also been criticized for voting to re-authorize extension of the act in 2010. In addition to his alleged inconsistency, I'm also unclear as to why the Dems seemed so silent on this issue back when they dominated both the U.S. House and the Senate.

But now, thanks in no small part to privacy advocates among Tea Party leaders who view the act as overly intrusive, Conyers and his fellow Dems seem to have finally rediscovered their voice when it comes to standing against government intrusion.

The Patriot Act, much like these senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reflects the worst impulses of the American public, and underscores the depths of the fear that terrorists wrought on 9/11. As political hacks ratched up the rhetoric with color-coded threat charts and dire warnings for Americans to "watch what they say," our nation gave in to crass opportunists more than happy to turn the great social experiment into Big Brother.

The years since have been marked with continued efforts to fan that fear, without barely even scant recognition from our elected leaders that instilling terror in American institutions is precisely what anti-American extremists want. 

I'm not sure how long the opposition from Conyers and others will hold, but I consider standing against the Patriot Act (or even parts of it) as a positive sign, one that says that America isn't afraid anymore.

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