Less than a month after making a show of reading the US Constitution into the Congressional Record, the leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engineered a vote to extend the surveillance authorities that both the Bush and Obama administrations have used to conduct "roving surveillance" of communications, to collect and examine business records and to target individuals who are not tied to terrorist groups for surveillance.
While most Democrats opposed the extension of the surveillance authorities -- rejecting aggressive lobbying by the Obama administration and its allies in the House GOP leadership -- overwhelming Republican support won approval of the legislation on a 275-144 vote. Thus, the supposedly Constitution-obsessed House has endorsed a measure that is widely seen -- not just by Democrats and progressives but by Republicans and conservatives -- as a constant threat to privacy protections outlined in the document's Fourth Amendment.
As Michelle Richardson, the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, noted Monday night: "It has been nearly a decade since the Patriot Act was passed and our lawmakers still refuse to make any meaningful changes to this reactionary law. The right to privacy from government is a cornerstone of our country's foundation and Americans must be free from the kind of unwarranted government surveillance that the Patriot Act allows. If Congress cannot take the time to insert the much needed privacy safeguards the Patriot Act needs, it should allow these provisions to expire."