Strange bedfellows, indeed; extremely conservative groups and the ACLU and friends.
By Tom Hamburger, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times
June 12, 2005
A closed-door vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week to expand law enforcement powers under the USA Patriot Act is prompting sharp criticism from some conservative leaders who are otherwise among the most vocal allies of President Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress.
The conservative leaders -- who have formed a coalition with critics on the left, including the American Civil Liberties Union -- vowed to press their concerns in coming days with public statements, rallies and radio advertisements in key congressional districts. The conservatives, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and political activists who have been long-standing critics of the anti-terrorism law, lashed out with particular force last week against the White House, members of Congress and Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. They said they had expected a more open review of the Patriot Act in which lawmakers considered some limits in order to safeguard civil liberties.
The conservatives complained that the Senate panel had moved in secret to expand the act. They are particularly upset about proposed "administrative subpoenas" that would let the FBI obtain a person's medical, financial and other records in terrorism cases without seeking a judge's approval. [...] The head of the American Conservative Union, David Keene, said he was upset that the administration appeared to be encouraging the Patriot Act provisions' renewal through the more secretive Senate Intelligence Committee, despite pledges of openness and of a willingness to consider compromise. The Senate Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction over renewing the act, but it has not begun deliberations, which are generally open to the public.
Keene is particularly upset with Atty. Gen. Gonzales, who has agreed in recent meetings with conservative activists, participants said, to the principle of open discussion and careful review of the Patriot Act before 16 of its most important provisions are renewed. The Intelligence Committee's decision to proceed on the Patriot Act was made without objection from the White House or from Gonzales.
"I find it disquieting that he talks like he is a reasonable guy and then, when it comes down to it, acts like he is not," Keene said. "We need to know: Who is the real Gonzales?"...
Of course, once you get into the article, you realize that, aside from being generally pissed off at the secrecy with which everything is being handled, the conservative and liberal groups don't really have a lot in common. The liberal groups want, at a minimum, for the provisions scheduled to sunset to actually sunset; the conservative groups want more limits on some of those sections, with modest modifications.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the act both once it hits the Senate Judiciary Committee, and when it hits the Senate floor. Assuming that the Judiciary Committee reflects its leader, Arlen Specter, it will perhaps be more reflective and cynical than was the Intelligence Committee. This may also be a test of just how lame a duck Bush is at this stage of his presidency. Will the GOP rank and file get behind him and press for continance and expansion of a law, even though supporting it may well do them some political damage, with an election season coming up next year?Posted by iain at June 13, 2005 11:39 AM