Thursday, February 25, 2010

Glenn Greenwald: Excessive bipartisanship and other matters

Excessive bipartisanship and other matters
By Glenn Greenwald

One of the strangest prongs of conventional Beltway wisdom is the lament that there is not enough bipartisanship. The opposite is true: many of the most damaging acts inflicted on the country by Washington are enacted on a fully bipartisan basis -- the most destructive political act of this generation, the invasion of Iraq, was fully bipartisan, as were most of the post-9/11 civil liberties abuses and other Bush-era initiatives-- and, at least in certain areas, the harmonious joining together of Republicans and Democrats continues unabated:

Senate votes to extend Patriot Act

Democrats retreat from adding new privacy protections to the law

The Senate voted Wednesday to extend for a year key provisions of the nation's counterterrorism surveillance law that are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

In agreeing to pass the bill, Senate Democrats retreated from adding new privacy protections to the USA Patriot Act.

The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote with no debate. It now goes to the House. . . .

Supporters say extending the law enables authorities to keep important tools in the fight against terrorism. It would also give Democrats some cover from Republican criticism that the Obama administration is soft on terrorism. . . . Some Democrats, however, had to forfeit new privacy protections they had sought for the law. . . .

"I would have preferred to add oversight and judicial review improvements to any extension of expiring provisions in the USA Patriot Act," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But I understand some Republican senators objected."

A mountain of evidence has emerged over the last several years documenting pervasive, systematic abuse of the Patriot Act powers. The proposed safeguards were extremely modest and would have provided minimal oversight on how those powers were exercised. Leading Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein spent all years ensuring that the proposed reforms were weakened to the point of virtual meaningless. But as weakened as they were, "some Republican senators objected" and might have called Democrats "soft on terror," so that was the end of that. The domestic surveillance law that Democrats spent years assailing as dangerously overbroad when out of power is renewed in full now that they are in power. That's the Beauty of Bipartisanship, and the last thing we need is more of it.

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