David Edwards and Stephen Webster
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) has introduced a little-noticed bill that intends to once again renew controversial provisions of the Bush administration’s USA Patriot Act that are due to expire this year.
When the act was first signed into law, Congress put in some “sunset” provisions to quiet the concerns of civil libertarians, but they were ignored by successive extensions. Unfortunately, those concerns proved to be well founded, and a 2008 Justice Department report confirmed that the FBI regularly abused their ability to obtain personal records of Americans without a warrant.
The only real sign of strong opposition to the act was in 2005, when a Democratic threat to filibuster its first renewal was overcome by Senate Republicans.
Since the bill introduced by Rogers on Jan. 5 was virtually identical to the extension passed last year, its passage was seen as likely.
“Given the very limited number of days Congress has in session before the current deadline, and the fact that the bill’s Republican sponsor is only seeking another year, I think it’s safe to read this as signaling an agreement across the aisle to put the issue off yet again,” the conservative-leaning Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez wrote.
“In the absence of a major scandal, though, it’s hard to see why we should expect the incentives facing legislators to be vastly different a year from now,” he added. “I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect this is how reining in the growth of the surveillance state becomes an item perpetually on next year’s agenda.”