On July 8, by a vote of 210 to 210, the House narrowly rejected an amendment to take away some of the FBI’s ability to investigate terrorists. The amendment would have killed a provision in the Patriot Act that allows library and book store records of suspected terrorists to be obtained more efficiently.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act–under fire since its passage in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because of claims it unjustly restricts civil liberties–allows terrorism investigators to obtain library and book store records of a terrorist suspect with a court order.
The amendment, proposed by far-left Rep. Bernard Sanders (I.-Vt.), would have done away with this provision and required investigators to obtain a grand jury subpoena before searching book records. However, as Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.) pointed out, the provisions in the Patriot Act provide more protection from misuse than simply requiring a grand jury subpoena.
“This provision does not apply to ordinary citizens engaging in ordinary criminal activity,” he said. “In order to conduct a search of records, the FBI must have a court order. Second, there are narrow restrictions on when such a record search may take place. It can be used only to obtain foreign intelligence information concerning a non-citizen of the United States or to obtain information relating to international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
Many in favor of the amendment are opposed to terrorist investigators’ ability to obtain book records almost secretly–a facet that Patriot Act supporters find attractive.
“The bottom line is we are at war with terrorists, and we want to break into those cells and detect what is going on, and we sure as hell do not want to tell them we’re coming,” said liberal Rep. Christopher Shays (R.-Conn.).
Supporters of the amendment used all the emotional appeal they could muster, referring to the amendment as the “Freedom to Read” amendment and “partial restoration of the fourth amendment. amendment.” Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D.-Calif.) even likened Section 215 of the Patriot Act to the book burnings in Nazi Germany.
Supporters of the amendment seemed to prefer hyperbolic examples to prove their point rather than sticking to the facts.
“They want to have the government able to reach into our lives, no matter what we are doing, no matter what you read in the library,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D.-Wash.). “Do not buy a ticket to Fahrenheit 9/11 on the Internet, because they will get your Internet records. They are going to get everything about your life, and they will continue to do it until we finally wind up with martial law.”
Several opponents of the amendment said this debate was legitimate for Congress to have, but it should not be conducted as an amendment to an appropriations bill, which limits debate to 20 minutes on each side.
A “yes” vote was a vote for the amendment in favor restricting the Patriot Act and the FBI’s terrorism-fighting capabilities. A “no” vote was a vote to keep the Patriot Act intact.
|For the Amendment: 210||Against the Amendment: 210|
|REPUBLICANS FOR: 18
DEMOCRATS FOR: 191
INDEPENDENTS FOR: 1
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 206
Davis, Jo Ann
DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 4
|REPUBLICANS (0):||DEMOCRATS (1):||INDEPENDENTS (0)|
NOT VOTING: 13
|REPUBLICANS (4):||DEMOCRATS (9):||INDEPENDENTS (0)|
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