In a major blow to the national security community, twenty-six Republicans tonight voted with 122 Democrats to oppose extension of the most important measures in the Patriot Act. 210 Republicans supported the Patriot Act and they were joined by 67 Democrats. The measure needed a two-thirds majority for passage, and it came 23 votes short. The final tally was 277-148.
The vote was a major victory for the American Civil Liberties Union and Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) Campaign for Liberty which organized opposition to the measure. In a victory press conference, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) praised the Tea Party movement and said they had passed their first test.
At the same time, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he plans to lead opposition to the Patriot Act in the upper body. The only Senator who initially voted against the Patriot Act, Russ Feingold (D-WI), was defeated last November.
The Wall of Shame
These are the 26 Republicans who joined Ron Paul and the Progressive Caucus to derail the Patriot Act: Don Young (AK), John Duncan (TN), Tom Graves (GA), Rob Woodall (GA), Jack Kingston (GA), Connie Mack (FL), Dean Heller (NV), Walter Jones (NC), Tom McClintock (CA), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Denny Rehberg (MT), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Raul Labrador (ID), Phil Roe (TN), Bobby Schilling (IL), Justin Amash (MI), David Schweicket (AZ), Rob Bishop (UT) , John Campbell (CA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Randy Hultgren (IL), Tim Johnson (IL), Kenny Marchant (TX), Chris Gibson (NY) and Paul Broun (GA).
Practically all of the arguments used by Patriot Act opponents are false. For a decade the United States has been successful in stopping acts of terrorism before they are launched.
This has been accomplished through effective intelligence collection, information-sharing and counter-terrorism operations. They are the best tools we have, and they were made possible by the Patriot Act. In 2009 alone, U.S. authorities foiled at least six terrorist plots against the United States. Since September 11, 2001, at least 30 planned terrorist attacks have been foiled, all but two of them prevented by law enforcement.
The Patriot Act does not impact a domestic organization such as Greenpeace, even if they break the law. The only people who have to fear the Patriot Act are foreign terrorists. The Patriot Act has been law for 10 years and innocent Americans are not suffering because of it. If that was the case we would not have been able to renew it three times already. The Patriot Act saves lives, protects all Americans, and it should be renewed.
As Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) noted, “The Patriot Act has saved countless lives by equipping our national security community with the tools it needs to keep America safe. Recent terror attacks demonstrate just how severe of a threat we are facing. There is simply no reason to weaken the Patriot Act — and every reason not to.”
The Patriot Act is Essential
Because of this legislation for the first time the FBI and the CIA can work together. Various federal law enforcement agencies are now collecting and sharing information, and they have gained access to information and communications of terrorists that was not possible in the past.
Before the Patriot Act, the FBI and the CIA were prohibited from communicating. The legislation enabled the monitoring of conversations among multiple terror suspects more quickly and efficiently. It was necessary because terrorists often discontinue their phones lines or change cell phones frequently.
It gave law enforcement agencies permission to listen in on any phone being used by a terror suspect. Prior to the Patriot Act’s passage in October 2001, law enforcement could wiretap only a landline — and authorities needed to acquire separate court approvals for every phone line they tapped.
The Patriot Act recognizes modern technology, and blackberries and disposable cell phones are no longer safe for them. Voicemail can be accessed through a search warrant rather than a court order.
In March of last year FBI director Robert Mueller said the Patriot Act was “exceptionally helpful.” As recognized in the Declaration of Independence, the first responsibility of government is to preserve the lives and liberty of the people. Within the boundaries of the Constitution, the Patriot Act has been an enormous success in stopping the people who want to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
Instead of providing a single example of the Patriot Act being misused, opponents make frightening, unsubstantiated claims that the Patriot Act is a virtual roll back of the First Amendment.