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Most Bay Area House members oppose ISIS plan

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jerry McNerney were the only greater Bay Area House members who voted Wednesday in favor of President Obama’s plan to beat back the Islamic State in part by training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.

The House voted 273-156 to add an amendment authorizing Obama’s plans to a short-term spending bill passed shortly after that will keep the federal government operating through mid-December. Voting yes were 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, while 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans voted no.

Nancy PelosiPelosi, D-San Francisco, didn’t whip Democratic votes behind the scenes, but did make a floor speech in favor of the amendment in which she called the Islamic State’s brutality “outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”

“We wish that this action that we’re called upon to do today was not necessary,” Pelosi said. “But the fact is that, with the diplomatic, political and humanitarian foundation that the President has laid out, with the narrowness of the request that he is making to us – it is not pleasant; it is not easy; it is hard – but it really is necessary for the House to approve this.”

A McNerney spokesman didn’t immediately answer an e-mail seeking comment. (See update at bottom.)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the measure “an important, initial step forward” against a group that “represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.”

But several Bay Area Democrats explained why they couldn’t vote for the plan.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said he supports “the President’s call to dismantle ISIL through robust regional and international partnerships, support for local capacities on the ground, and expanded humanitarian assistance. Arming and training Syrians and Iraqis, and perhaps eventually supporting them with airstrikes, may push back ISIL’s gains. But it will not defeat extremism.”

“There is no lasting military solution to extremism. The only lasting solution is a political solution. One in which the rights and concerns of all religious and cultural groups are respected,” Honda said. “The US must focus on building partnerships in the region, and around the world, to encourage moderate Sunni groups in Iraq and Syria to move away from ISIL, and towards an alternative and inclusive future.”

“Simply arming the Syrian opposition groups comes with great risk,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, said in a statement issued after the vote. “Instead, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a debate and vote in Congress that specifically authorizes the use of force against ISIL, and the involvement of a broad, international coalition of Muslim and Western countries to diminish ISIL and degrade their organizational capabilities.”

“To defeat ISIL, I support U.S. led airstrikes and the building of a real, substantive coalition of regional allies who will stand up to defend their own countries and existence. I do not support putting substantial U.S. resources in, and betting the house on, unproven ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in an e-mailed statement. “Over the course of U.S. military history, this proxy-war approach has had disastrous results and no evidence in this case has convinced me the result would be any different.”

“I agree with the President’s decision to remove the threat created by ISIS but the plan laid out by the White House is still too vague,” Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, said in his statement. “I could not support the amendment without clear answers to how that threat will be removed and exactly what the United States role will be. ISIS remains a roadblock in creating stability in the region and they must be stopped. However, I am fearful today’s vote does not bring us closer to our ultimate goal of peace.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, issued a statement saying the vote “was not, as some have argued, a choice between supporting the President’s plan and simply doing nothing about ISIL. To be clear, I share President Obama’s assessment of ISIL as a brutal terrorist organization, I support the goal of destroying them, and I believe there should be an American role in a broad, multinational response to ISIL.

“My ‘no’ vote today is because this plan for a new American-led war in Iraq and Syria is being advanced without a proper congressional authorization as required by the Constitution, and because I believe the strategic assumptions underlying the plan are deeply flawed,” Huffman said. “Frankly, we should know better than to provide arms and training to fighters we know very little about – and what we do know is troubling. We should know better than to take the lead in fighting and funding this war without a real multinational coalition where the countries most impacted by the ISIL threat carry their fair share of the risk and cost. And we should know better than to do all of this on the basis of wishful assumptions and rosy assurances that the conflict will not escalate out of control.”

UPDATE 5:24 P.M.: McNerney just emailed me a statement saying that “taking military action is the gravest responsibility of our government, and I take my role in helping decide our nation’s policy very seriously.

“I support the current plan to engage and ultimately destroy ISIL, but it won’t be successful unless we can enlist an alliance of nations within the region that are fully and demonstrably committed to true democratic inclusion and are willing to fight for their own freedom,” he said, including training potential allied military units off the battlefield and arming competent and reliable allies.

“Meanwhile, the President must demonstrate America’s commitment to the region by using very limited American air power in conjunction with local military units to help prevent additional ISIL territorial gains. I do not support the involvement of American ground troops beyond their training mission, or the excessive use of American air power. Both of these are not needed and would likely be counterproductive in the end,” McNerney continued. “While I supported this amendment, I also urged my colleagues to consider the long-term effects of authorizing force: to our soldiers, to the innocent civilians, and to sustained stability in the Middle East.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

California Dems respond to Obama’s ISIL speech

In a nutshell: Supportive, with a few sounding cautionary tones.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, the President laid out his comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS and his case for the expansion of military action in Iraq and Syria.

“The Constitution requires Congress to vote on the use of military force. This is not about this President. This is about any President and any Congress.

“We must re-establish the checks and balances laid out by the Constitution.

“The facts are clear. We are no longer talking about limited strikes to prevent genocide and protect U.S. personnel. We are talking about sustained bombing and the use of military force.

“The threat from ISIS is serious. But before we take any further military action, Congress must debate the threats to our national security, the risks to American servicemen and women and the financial costs of waging another war in the Middle East.

“As the President said “we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together,” that is why I believe the President’s plan requires a thoughtful debate and vote by Congress.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California:

“I fully support President Obama’s decision to utilize his authority to begin a counterterrorism effort against the terrorist army ISIL. I applaud him for recognizing the seriousness of the threat and for going on the offense against this threat.

“As the president said, the United States will lead a coalition of nations against ISIL to include Gulf states and other countries throughout the Middle East, Europe and around the world.

“Now that a strategy has been outlined, it is critical that Congress and the American people come together in solidarity to support the president and our armed forces. On such an important matter of national security, we must show ISIL we have the political will, the military might and the strength of a united country.

“In my 14 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have not seen a terrorist organization with the brutality and capabilities of ISIL. The group already occupies large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and poses a direct threat to the entire Middle East. ISIL has also repeatedly expressed its intent to attack the United States, most recently during the beheadings of two American journalists.

“Anyone with a sense of humanity cannot be passive in the face of this organization. It has killed, tortured and kidnapped thousands, beheaded children, raped women, crucified those it considers apostates and aspires to commit widespread genocide.

“ISIL is pure evil, and the time has come to end its reign of terror.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“Tonight, the President showed what a real leader is-a President who understands the threats we face and that America must not face those threats alone.

“ISIS is a threat to the world and that is why I am so proud that President Obama has put together a broad-based coalition so that civilized nations can work together to degrade and defeat these terrorists.

“President Obama recognizes that in order to do this, we must remember the tragic mistakes of the past and conduct this operation without American combat boots on the ground. Instead, we will rely on trained and vetted forces in the region that have the most at stake from the ISIS threat.

“ISIS has already murdered two innocent Americans and has vowed that there will be more American bloodshed. These terrorists have threatened our embassies across the globe and said that ‘every American citizen is a legitimate target.’ They have also threatened our allies and all those who disagree with their demented ideology.

“There is no way the international community can stand by in the face of the beheading, crucifixion, and stoning of innocent men, women, and children by a terrorist group that numbers in the tens of thousands and has the finances to continue their campaign of carnage until they are stopped.

“Congress must stand behind the President in this effort by acting swiftly to provide funds so that the vetted Syrian rebels can take the fight to ISIS in Syria.”

Lots more, after the jump….
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iraq, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Speier blasted for disputing Taliban are terrorists

Some conservatives are blasting Rep. Jackie Speier for disputing the Taliban’s status as “terrorists” during an MSNBC interview Tuesday.

Speier, D-San Mateo, was being interviewed about the Obama administration’s swap of several Taliban-related prisoners whom the U.S. was holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for captured U.S. serviceman Bowe Bergdahl.

“Let me underscore the term ‘terrorists.’ The Taliban is part of the fabric of Afghanistan, they were part of the leadership of that country before we engaged there. We are now actively attempting to get the Taliban to negotiate with President Karzai and the Afghanistani government because there will be some cooperation, some level of coordination between the two if that country is going to survive and move forward. So, to say that they are terrorists at this point is not necessarily accurate.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Move America Forward – a Sacramento-based nonprofit known primarily for raising money to send care packages to U.S. troops overseas – sent out a fundraising email with this photo near the top:

Taliban and Speier

“According to a [sic] Rep. Speier, the Taliban had legitimacy when they ruled over Afghanistan by enforcing Sharia law, persecuting women, helping Al Qaeda plot 9/11 and killing anyone who dissented against them,” the email said. “That is, until we stopped them and liberated Afghanistan from their theocratic rule in 2001. Oh, they aren’t terrorists, they’re a social movement that’s just another part of the fabric of Afghanistan…

“Is she serious? Rep. Speier needs a reality check! The Taliban are indeed terrorists committed to killing Americans and we are still very much at war with them!” the email continued. “With leaders like these, is it any wonder our troops sometimes wonder if America still supports them? Don’t let our troops be unsure – show them that we still support their efforts and pray for their safety.”

Speier couldn’t be reached for comment.

Posted on Thursday, June 12th, 2014
Under: Afghanistan, Jackie Speier, U.S. House, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

Mike Thompson helps introduce FISA oversight act

Rep. Mike Thompson helped introduce a bipartisan bill today that he and his co-authors say would strengthen congressional oversight and improve accountability from the nation’s intelligence community, which has been accused of overstepping its bounds in surveillance of U.S. citizens.

The Intelligence Oversight and Accountability Act of 2013, H.R. 3103, requires that any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decision, order or opinion that includes a denial or modification of an intelligence community request, or that results in a change to any legal interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, be shared with Congress.

Mike Thompson“Our government has a responsibility to both protect American lives and our citizens’ civil liberties,” Thompson, D-Napa, said in a news release. “This bill helps us meet that responsibility by strengthening Congress’ aggressive oversight of our Intelligence Community. Through the oversight and accountability provided by this bill, we can help make sure our Intelligence Community operates within legal and constitutional boundaries while they continue their brave work to keep Americans safe.”

The bill’s other co-authors are Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.; and J. Randy Forbes, R-Va.

Under current law, when the FISC or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review issues a decision, order, or opinion, the attorney general must determine if the issue considered by the FISC includes a “significant construction or interpretation of the law.” If the attorney general determines that the decision is significant, that information must be shared with Congress. But if the attorney general determines that the decision is not “significant,” the information doesn’t have to be shared with Congress.

The bill also requires the Justice Department to include enhanced summaries of the FISC’s decisions, orders, and opinions to make the facts, issues, and legal reasoning involved in these matters more accessible to Congress.

H.R. 3103 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, on which Gutierrez and Forbes are senior members, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Thompson, LoBiondo and Gutierrez are senior members.

Posted on Monday, September 16th, 2013
Under: Civil liberties, Mike Thompson, national security, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

Obama extends terrorism ‘national emergency’

While we debate the extent and invasiveness of our surveillance society and the wisdom (or lack thereof) of U.S. military action in Syria, President Barack Obama on Tuesday extended – again – the official national emergency that began a dozen years ago this week with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Here’s the official notice issued by the president:

CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO CERTAIN TERRORIST ATTACKS

Consistent with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency previously declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.

Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2013. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency that was declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

BARACK OBAMA

Posted on Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
Under: Obama presidency, War on Terror | 22 Comments »

SF man to be force-fed outside White House

ConterisA San Francisco man will subject himself to nasogastric force-feeding outside the White House tomorrow in solidarity with Guantanamo Bay inmates who’ve been similarly force-fed.

That is exactly what it sounds like: A nasogastric tube carries food and medicine to the stomach through the nose.

Andres Conteris, who turned 52 Thursday, since July 8 has been fasting in solidarity with the Guantanamo Bay detainees, too, and says he has lost 50 pounds.

nasogastric feeding - AP photo“Force-feeding is torture,” he said in a news release. “I wish to make visible what the U.S. government is perpetrating against prisoners in Guantánamo and what the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is threatening for hunger strikers in Pelican Bay. The only way to end the hunger strikes and force-feeding is to shutter the Gitmo prison and respond favorably to the demands of the prisoners in California.”

The California inmates ended their hunger strike Thursday.

Conteris’ force-feeding, administered by a medical professional, will be webcast live at 9 a.m. Pacific on Friday.

Posted on Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Under: War on Terror | 3 Comments »

Lee, progressives hold hearing on drone policy

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including the caucus’ Peace and Security Task Force Chair Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, held a hearing Wednesday on U.S. drone policy.

Predator droneAt issue were lethal drones operations abroad, questions of due process, implications for executive and congressional war-making authority, and the precedent being set as other nations rapidly adopt drone technology.

“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus on this issue, and am especially grateful for their efforts in calling this hearing,” Lee said in a news release. “We need to ensure that both chambers publically debate the implications of drones and drone warfare. We cannot retreat from our Congressional duties of oversight and accountability, especially on issues like this where the stakes are so high.”

Caucus members heard testimony from former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ron Dellums, D-Oakland; Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights Campaign; international human rights lawyer and New York University Professor Sarah Knuckey; Chris Rogers, program officer of the Regional Policy Initiative at the Open Society Foundation; counterterrorism and human rights lawyer Professor Naureen Shah; and journalist Adam Baron. The hearing also includied video testimony from Baraa Shiban, a youth representative in Yemen’s National Dialogue and Reprieve Project.

Caucus co-chairs Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., recently wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking the administration to explain the legal basis for drone strikes. “It is far past time that the White House openly discuss the drones program,” the letter said. “The President has full reign to protect the United States as Commander in Chief, but Congress has a vital oversight role in this issue, and we cannot shy away from those responsibilities.”

Posted on Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, U.S. House, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

Lee says drone memo should drive Congress to act

The Obama Administration’s newly revealed legal rationale for using drones to kill U.S. citizens involved in anti-American terrorism should help convince Congress to repeal the broad use-of-force authorization it in 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee said today.

Lee, D-Oakland, was the lone vote against that authorization on Sept. 14, 2001.

“We must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target,” she said that day, later calling the authorization “a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events – anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.”

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee has been trying to get Congress to repeal the authorization ever since, and believes it’s the basis for policies such as those allowing drone strikes against U.S. citizens. She said Wednesday she was happy to hear President Obama affirm in his Jan. 21 inauguration speech that “a decade of war is now ending” and “we, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

But to end perpetual war, “one of the steps that has to be taken is repealing that terrible resolution … an overly broad blank check that has been used over and over and over again to keep us in a state of perpetual war,” Lee said. “I’m going to fight until we get it done.”

She said she’s seeking co-signers on a letter asking the administration for a more specific explanation of its legal justifications for the drone strikes. Getting more information means raising awareness, Lee said, and that can lead to more support from both sides of the aisle.

Lee’s H.R. 198 says the September 2001 authorization of military force “has been used to justify a broad and open-ended authorization for the use of military force and such an interpretation is inconsistent with the authority of Congress to declare war and make all laws for executing powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.” It would repeal the authorization effective 180 days after the bill’s enactment.

Introduced Jan. 4, the bill has five cosponsors: John Conyers, D-Mich.; Donna Edwards, D-Md.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; and Walter Jones, R-N.C.

Posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Obama presidency, U.S. House, War on Terror | 59 Comments »

DiFi floats bill to bar citizens’ indefinite detention

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein today introduced a bipartisan Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011, which states that American citizens apprehended inside the United States can’t be indefinitely detained by the military.

This has been a hot topic in recent weeks, as Congress debated a National Defense Authorization Act that had included a provision which would’ve allowed just such indefinite detentions. Per Politico, in order to satisfy the administration and other opponents’ concerns, the final bill says nothing in it may be “construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” The House passed the bill 283-136 on Wednesday; today’s Senate vote was 86-13.

Feinstein, who voted for the bill, apparently wants to ensure this issue doesn’t come up again.

The legislation she introduced today would amend the Non-Detention Act of 1971 by providing that a Congressional authorization for the use of military force does not authorize the indefinite detention, without charge or trial, of U.S. citizens apprehended on U.S. soil. It also would codify a “clear-statement rule” requiring Congress to expressly authorize detention authority when it comes to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

The protections for citizens and lawful permanent residents is limited to those “apprehended in the United States” and wouldn’t cover citizens who take up arms against the United States on a foreign battlefield, such as Afghanistan.

“The argument is not whether citizens such as Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla – or others who would do us harm — should be captured, interrogated, incarcerated and severely punished. They should be,” she said in a news release today. “But what about an innocent American? What about someone in the wrong place at the wrong time? The beauty of our Constitution is that it gives every citizen the basic due process right to a trial on their charges.”

“Experiences over the last decade prove the country is safer now than before the 9/11 attacks. Terrorists are behind bars, dangerous plots have been thwarted. The system is working,” she continued. “We must clarify U.S. law to state unequivocally that the government cannot indefinitely detain American citizens inside this country without trial or charge. I strongly believe that Constitutional due process requires U.S. citizens apprehended in the U.S. should never be held in indefinite detention. And that is what this new legislation would accomplish.”

Her bill’s original cosponsors are Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Mark Udall, D-Colo.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M. FRIDAY: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., today introduced the House companion bill, H.R. 3702.

“Every American deserves their day in court, and this legislation changes existing law to protect our due process rights,” Garamendi said in his news release. “We cannot allow our basic rights to be lost, and there is no legitimate national security reason to deny any citizen in America a trial. We can both keep America safe and maintain our liberties.”

Said Heinrich: “Detainee provisions included in this year’s Defense Authorization and retained in the final Conference Report do not strengthen our national security and are at complete odds with the United States Constitution. It is time we restore the proper balance between individual liberties and national security.”

Posted on Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Under: Civil liberties, Dianne Feinstein, John Garamendi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 1 Comment »

Congress extends Patriot Act sections for 4 years

Congress voted yesterday to extend several controversial parts of the Patriot Act for four more years.

The Senate approved S.990 on a 72 to 23 vote, with both of California’s senators in support; the House passed it on a 250 to 153 vote, with no support from any Bay Area member. President Obama signed it into law minutes before the provisions would’ve expired.

The votes made strange bedfellows, with libertarian-leaning Republicans standing with some of Congress’ most liberal Democrats in opposition.

Extended were provisions that authorize roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; provisions that let the government access “any tangible items,” such as library records, as a part of surveillance; and a “lone wolf” provision that allows surveillance of those in the United States without citizenship, a green card or political asylum who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

Civil liberties advocates and much of the Bay Area’s House delegation had believed — especially now that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead – this was the right time to reassess the nation’s balance of security measures and civil liberties.

But the fix was in a week ago, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, struck a deal for an amendment-free extension until June 1, 2015.

In February, all Bay Area House members except Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, had voted against extending these provisions; McNerney had supported extending them until December, but ultimately they were extended for only 90 days and are set to expire at the end of the month. McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh in February had said the congressman “has serious concerns with this legislation and believes that we must make substantial changes to the law in order to better preserve our country’s most fundamental civil liberties. However, in the meantime, allowing the policy to expire without warning and a comprehensive debate on our security policies would not be advisable.”

Earlier this month, Hersh said McNerney “continues to have major concerns about the Patriot Act. He believes there must be substantial changes made to the law in order to better preserve our civil liberties. A bill hasn’t been released yet, so Congressman McNerney wants to see the legislation before reaching a decision.”

On Thursday, McNerney joined the rest of the Bay Area delegation in opposing the extension. He issued a statement afterward reiterating his concern about freedoms and noting this extension continues the policies without reform. “That is simply not in our country’s best interest. Instead, we should pursue balanced policies that keep our country safe and protect our civil liberties.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement saying the law doesn’t properly balance national security with protection of civil liberties.

“I opposed the extension of the PATRIOT Act because we cannot sacrifice fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy, in our effort to manage the threat of terrorism. Our basic civil liberties, which include access to our library records, medical records, and personal information about private residences and businesses, are not safe from the PATRIOT Act,” she said. “I will continue to push for an end to invasive intelligence gathering tactics that come at the expense of vital civil liberties, many of which have been justified by the overly broad executive branch authorization I opposed in the wake of 9/11.”

American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Michelle Richardson said the extension means “Congress has missed yet another opportunity to make necessary changes to protect our privacy. It means we’re likely to see more abuse of Patriot Act powers by law enforcement. Next time it’s given the opportunity, Congress should consider prioritizing Americans’ civil liberties by passing actual Patriot Act reform.”

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had authored legislation to extend the provisions through the end of 2013. Her office earlier this month referred me to a February floor speech in which she said these provisions are used often and believes “that being able to have good intelligence is what prevents an attack against a New York subway or air cargo plane. It is what keeps this homeland safe, and it is what allows us to get ahead of a terrorist attack. Without them “… we put our nation in jeopardy.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and its reauthorizations in 2006 and in February, saying it gives law enforcement the tools it needs to keep Americans safe. She had expressed concern, however, over provisions such as seizure of library records, and wanted those areas tightened up.

Boxer had supported an amendment authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which she said would’ve added some checks and balances. She was disappointed that it didn’t get a vote, but voted for the extension anyway because “any delays in providing law enforcement officials the tools they need to disrupt terrorist plots and to find those who would harm our country would be unacceptable.”

Posted on Friday, May 27th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Jerry McNerney, Mitch McConnell, national security, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 2 Comments »