The Un-Patriot Acts of Harry Reid

As you undoubtedly know by now, the furious rush to extend the Patriot Act is once again in full swing. The Patriot Act is an odious piece of legislation that was birthed by fearmongering and the imposition of artificial drop dead, if we don’t pass this today the terrortists are gonna OWN us, artificial time emergencies. Then it was extended the same way. That is not a bug, it is indeed a feature.

When the government, through its executive and compliant Congress, wants to cut surveillance and privacy corners out of laziness and control greed, and otherwise crush the soul of the Constitution and the 4th Amendment, demagoguery and fake exigencies are the order of the day. And so they are again. Oh, and of course they want to get out of town on their vacation. And that is what has happened today.

Senators Wyden and Mark Udall had a superb amendment proposed to narrow the Patriots core provisions ever so slightly so as to maintain some Constitutional integrity. Marcy explained the details here. But, because that would engender real and meaningful debate on the efficacy of Patriot, it had to be quashed, and that is exactly what has occurred. Harry Reid and Diane Feinstein gave a couple of hollow and meaningless “promises”, of unknown content, to Wyden and Udall and strongarmed them into withdrawing their amendment. The citizens are simply not entitled to meaningful debate on their Constitution.

Spencer Ackerman, over at Wired’s Danger Room, shredded Reid for his unPatriotic act. Gloriously:

Remember back when a Republican was in the White House and demanded broad surveillance authority? Here’s Reid back then. ”Whether out of convenience, incompetence, or outright disdain for the rule of law, the administration chose to ignore Congress and ignore the Constitution,” Reid said about Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. When Bush insisted Congress entrench that surveillance with legislation in 2008, Reid turned around and demanded Bush “stop fear-mongering and start being honest with the American people about national security.” Any claim about the detrimental impact about a lapse in widespread surveillance were “scare tactics” to Reid that ”irresponsibly distort reality.” (Then Reid rolled over for Bush.)

That’s nowhere near the end of Reid’s hypocrisy here. When the Senate debated renewing the Patriot Act in 2006, Reid, a supporter of the bill’s surveillance procedures, himself slowed up the bill’s passage to allow amendments to it — the better to allow “sensible checks on the arbitrary exercise of executive power.” Sounding a whole lot like Rand Paul, the 2006-vintage Reid registered his “objection to the procedural maneuver under which Senators have been blocked from offering any amendments to this bill” and reminded his colleagues, ”the hallmark of the Senate is free speech and open debate.”

Reid could hardly be more of an opportunist here. He favors broad surveillance authorities — just as long as those scary Republicans stop being mean to liberals. When Attorney General John Ashcroft warned civil libertarians that their “phantoms of lost liberty… only aid terrorists,” Reid told CNN on December 8, 2001 that “people should just cool their jets” — but not that Ashcroft was actually, you know, wrong. By contrast, the ultra-conservative pundit Bob Novak said Ashcroft made “one of the most disreputable statements I have heard from an attorney general.”

Exactly right. But it gets worse. Rand Paul also had an amendment, but he, unlike our fine Democratic Senators, was not willing to quietly go off into the night. Paul stood his ground and now Reid has agreed to let Paul’s amendment to exempt gun purchases from Patriot’s scope have a vote:

Senate Democratic leadership seems poised to acquiesce to Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) demand that the chamber vote on an amendment that would restrict national security officials from examining gun dealer records in their efforts to track potential terrorists.

The Kentucky Republican had been insisting that such language at least receive a vote as an addition to the extension of the USA Patriot Act.

So, that is where the Democratic party, Democratic Senate Leadership and the Obama Administration are on protecting the Constitution and its 4th Amendment. Sane and intelligent amendments to narrow focus and appropriately protect American’s privacy are squashed like small irritating bugs under a hail of fearmongering and demagoguery – from Democratic Leadership – and terrorists’ rights to buy guns with impunity and privacy are protected because just one GOP senator has the balls to actually stand up and insist on it.

Hanoi Harry Reid is on point and leading this clown car of civil liberties insanity, and so deserves a healthy chunk of the blame, but he is certainly not alone. For all the noise they made, why cannot Ron Wyden and Mark Udall stand up in a similar fashion? Where are the other Democrats who used to have such alarm when it was the Bush/Cheney Administration doing these things? Where is Russ Feingold, I miss him so, but I am sure that Obama and Reid are glad he is gone on days like today. Exactly why Feingold was, and is, so important.

UPDATE: There is late word Reid may have talked Mitch McConnell and GOP Senate leadership into putting a clamp on Rand Paul and holding up his amendment debate demand. We shall see.

  1. clarkaspen says:

    “Where are the other Democrats who used to have such alarm when it was the Bush/Cheney Administration doing these things?”

    They’re probably with the people who loudly protested against the Iraq War and are nowhere to be found when it comes to Libya.

  2. cregan says:

    bmaz, you make the erroneous assumption that Democrats are against the Patriot Act. (I’m exaggerating)

    Democrats only talk this talk to make you think they are against it; they don’t want to alienate their base. When you look at their actions, as opposed to words, you will see that they essentially agree with Bush and the GOP on many of these issues–Patriot Act included.

    They are playing you.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Isn’t the purpose of PR to blur the lines between perception and reality?

      How synchronistic that the word president begins with the letters “p” and “r”.

      • cregan says:

        In a way, that was the point.

        People somehow feel the Senators have betrayed some principle, and are reacting in this thread that way.

        The realization should be that there never WAS a principle that opposed the Patriot Act. They all agreed with it all along, but never told you.

        You might say, they were opposed to Bush, but not the Patriot Act or many other things Bush did.

        You thought because they were opposed to Bush, they were opposed to the things he did.


        You can see that in most of Obama’s actual deeds since taking office.

        “We don’t mind doing these things, we just want to be the ones doing it.”

  3. john in sacramento says:

    Thanks bmaz, Harry Reid is so full of lies and distortions it’s a wonder he can even walk straight

    Watch the vids, and read powwows comments

    And here’s another really good takedown by George Pyle of the Salt Lake Tribune

    This week, President Obama stood in London’s Westminster Hall and, like a gracious guest, praised the British roots, and the American expression, of the principles of freedom and democracy. The president, as is his wont, used stirring words to restate not only the belief that those values are important, but that the United States and the United Kingdom have a joint responsibility to uphold them around the world.

    Meanwhile, back in the comparatively younger halls of Congress, those same principles were being tossed aside as members of the Senate and the House have — at Obama’s request — been voting to extend three needless and overreaching provisions of the needless and overreaching Patriot Act.


    No one has established the need for laws that exempt investigators from the very requirements Obama this week praised in their birthplace, primarily the need for a judge’s warrant and probable cause before the law can search your private business.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    What a down the rabbit hole world we live when a libertarian, Randian neocon is among the few to defend the Constitution against a Democratic president and the bipartisan illegality of an American Congress.

  5. newz4all says:

    americans are not the only citizens on the planet being screwed into the ground by the surveillance state:

    USA to Store European Passenger Data for 15 Years

    Draft of Washington-EU deal leaked shows agreement ‘violates basic European principles’

    The personal data of millions of passengers who fly between the US and Europe, including credit card details, phone numbers and home addresses, may be stored by the US department of homeland security for 15 years.

    The 15-year retention period is likely to prove highly controversial as it is three times the five years allowed for in the EU’s PNR (passenger name record) regime to cover flights into, out of and within Europe.

  6. newz4all says:

    Manning / Assange revealed to the world the many horrible crimes committed by the jack booted thugs and scum and we all should be very very thankful. and grand juries should be completely done away with – the state mis-uses to crush its citizenery.

    WikiLeaks Probe Ramps Up One Year After Bradley Manning’s Arrest

    A year after Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested on suspicion of leaking classified info to WikiLeaks, the government is shifting its probe of the whistle-blowing organization into higher gear.

    Two weeks ago, a grand jury meeting in a courtroom in the Eastern District Court of Virginia heard testimony for at least two days from at least three people subpoenaed by federal prosecutors. The jury has been convened to consider whether to approve the prosecution of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. A subpoena delivered to a Manning associate in the Boston area says that prosecutors are investigating “possible violations of federal criminal law involving, but not necessarily limited to, conspiracy to communicate or transmit national defence information in violation of” the Espionage Act.

    • bmaz says:

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with grand juries, they are an essential component of the justice system. Can they be misused; sure just about anything can be. That is the user, not the tool, at fault.

  7. powwow says:

    So it’s over…

    Exactly one Senator besides Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have the opportunity to offer an amendment to the PATRIOT Act-extending legislation on the Senate floor (a bill that was never considered in committee). Senator Rand Paul will get to debate (he’s wrapping up his half hour now), for a total of sixty minutes divided between the Parties, just two of his amendments (#363, gun records, and #365, banking records) – which Majority Leader Reid will then move to table (to kill, so they won’t even receive votes on the merits), and the No votes will need 60 votes (the motion to table rule itself requires only a simple-majority to prevail) to win. [And, Reid added, he “hopes [knows] the amendments will be defeated.” Next up: The Republican House Rubberstamp.] Further, Paul has agreed to waive the rest of the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time to allow the final vote – on the Reid motion to concur in the House message to S. 990 with a Senate amendment – to immediately proceed after Paul’s amendments have been (presumably) tabled.

    Rand Paul openly (and helpfully) explained that he knows that the votes have been carefully pre-counted by both Parties, and that the vote-count outcomes are all “foregone conclusions,” which is why the supermajority hurdles for his amendments have been imposed (and is likely why the Leahy/Paul amendment won’t get a chance, because it could obtain 60 votes).

    In a stark replay of Harry Reid’s intentionally-rushed, last-minute 2006 passage of the Military Commissions Act, Pat Leahy was once again in a crucial position, posed to object on principle to Reid’s Unanimous Consent Request – designed to protect the backroom deal for an unreformed, four-year extension that started all this – and declaring himself inclined to do so, only to back down while on his feet, to avoid putting Reid in a difficult position (can’t have that), after Leahy’s request to have the Leahy/Paul amendment considered was objected to by Mitch McConnell.

    So we can stop waiting in the dark, while slivers of hope fade, to learn whether days of secret wheeling and dealing by Party leadership (backed by a majority of each private Party Caucus) have indeed succeeded in preventing the Senate from doing its most fundamental duty, to actually consider (with the simple-majority power to amend and improve) this legislation as only that representative legislative body can and must…

    Mark Udall, wrapping up, seemingly, on the Senate floor (after Ron Wyden) at about 2:40 p.m. this afternoon, had seemed to imply that the latest hinted-at unanimous consent agreement, for at least some amendments to this bill to be heard, again failed to be reached by an inch (using his fingers). “We were very close to that agreement,” Udall said, without specifying whether he meant today’s agreement or the agreement almost reached on Tuesday. [He was referencing this with regard to the important amendments to the substance of the legislation that he’s introduced, aside from the withdrawn Wyden/Udall amendment (re OLC opinions) that Feinstein suckered them both into suspending on the promise of some closed hearings. Udall also made clear that Section 215 business records, as the law now stands, can and will be requested by the FBI for Americans with no connection to terrorism or espionage or related investigations, with the sole caveat that their records pertain to some “tangible thing.” Open Sesame, in other words.]

    This saga speaks volumes about what the Senate has become.

    We’ve got the veteran Senate Budget Committee chairman, Kent Conrad of North Dakota – while openly in violation of the Congressional Budget Act, for not producing a budget blueprint of any kind by the specified date for committee mark-up – justifying his shirking of that duty because a secret cabal, or “[Party] leadership group” is privately doing that work for him somewhere off the public record. As, apparently, only that “bipartisan” group can, because the President is one of its members, and, apparently, everyone knows that the “bipartisan” members of the Senate Budget Committee never do, and shouldn’t be expected to, work together on the nation’s budget, in open, in good faith, in a public committee setting. [And because, Conrad implies, President Obama will veto any budget Congress produces that the President didn’t dictate, and Congress could never override such a veto.]

    And Rand Paul has had to fight like a tiger (mostly out of public view, of course, the way the Parties like it) just to get the Senate to pretend to do its job on this legislation (never mind to fulfill its sole responsibility to declare war). But Harry Reid is now pleased as punch with this outcome – ordered by the President, and enabled and delivered by every member of Reid’s caucus, their cowering actions carefully hidden from public view, who all spent the week not considering any piece of legislation on the Senate floor, as is increasingly their irresponsible norm.

    One thing that should live in infamy after this appalling display by the U.S. Senate, is the remarkable exchange that occurred yesterday between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Rand Paul, that I hope everyone will take the time to watch:

    It’s an amazing exchange both for the ugly demagoguery and blame-casting that Harry Reid deployed, and for the maturity of the principled rebuttal by the rookie Senator Rand Paul in response (who properly described one Reid accusation as “scurrilous”).

    Enormous credit is due to Rand Paul for his efforts this week, on behalf of all of the American people. Senator Paul has my grateful thanks, and profound appreciation, for fighting the good fight, in defense of the Constitution, with such dogged, principled determination, both on stage and off.

    • bmaz says:

      Interesting, however, that out of all of Paul’s purported concern as to his amendments, the ones he really fought for were the most odious, especially the guns exception. He deserves some credit, and more than any Dem on this issue even arguably; but I am not going too far out on a limb for him here.

      • powwow says:

        bmaz, we saw a small fraction of what Rand Paul “fought for,” in public. Some kind of epic battle between Reid and Paul took place off-stage, that we don’t know the half of (see the referenced video exchange @ 10 for the most telling public face of that battle). Considering the contrast in their experience and positions, and the likelihood that in the end Paul was fighting off both Party caucuses, just for the right to be meaningfully heard on any amendments to this legislation, the merits (or demerits) of the amendments that Paul finally did manage to drag to the floor through his efforts, after Reid had already filled the tree, are of relatively little interest to me.

        The larger, highly-significant process fight, is what really mattered, and matters, here, from my perspective, going forward. Because any day of the week the Senate can turn its attention to amending the PATRIOT Act, if it so chooses. But if the Senate essentially doesn’t exist anymore as a legislative body, because a handful of Party leaders have it by the throat, hostage to their backroom deals (often dictated by the White House), as this experience, absent Senator Paul’s resistance, would indicate, well, let’s just say that our problems are a whole lot larger than the PATRIOT Act.

        • DWBartoo says:

          ” …a whole lot larger …”

          Yes, powwow …

          Effectively, the executive, answerable to “no one”, rules supreme.

          BOTH congressional and judicial “branches” have happily assumed the role of well-paid rubber stamps.

          However, when a former president of the American Bar Association says that the client is the most important “thing”, suggesting that lying is not wrong when done to protect a client, and when the ONLY function of a corporation is to make money, one wonders just how far and deep the rot extends.

          If a lawyer has NO obligation to the law or to society, then the pretense of meaningful legal “ethics” is a sorry and very, very sick joke. When the monied class may plunder and pillage, off-shoring jobs and the actual production of genuine wealth which attends the conversion of resources into useful AND useable objects, things, and energy, then the economy is perverted beyond repair, and when Congress is permitted to use non-public knowledge when doing their Wall Street “betting” on the market AND members of Congress are not obliged to excuse themselves from signing off on legislation that will benefit them directly, because, were the legislators not permitted to vote than it would “dis-enfrancise those many whom the legislator represents” rendering the entire notion of “representative democracy” into total and deliberate hypocrisy… then yes … the “problem”, our “problem” is a WHOLE lot bigger.

          Those now turning the screws on the middle class, drawing and quartering all of society, and behaving with utterly reckless disregard of empathy or understanding, have been laying the “groundwork” since before the beginning of WWII and have esculated the class war with a vengence since the plowing under of domestic “hostilities” that erupted with the pathetic though profitable “adventure” in Vietnam.

          Secret laws, the destruction of the rule of law creating intricate webs of deceit, collusion, and complicity … the entire “elaborate masquerade” as mzchief has aptly termed it, is pervasive and unbiquitous …

          And, mostly, not grasped, in the slightest, by the vast majority of those whom it is intended to circumscribe, spy upon, and control.


    • OldFatGuy says:


      Thank you SO SO MUCH for all you’ve done. The way you keep your eyes on the bastards and then articulate it so well, with backup links, makes it easier for us to follow things that are somtimes, well let’s face it, intentionally hard to follow.

      Hope the fact that I disagree with you on the issue of filibusters doesn’t keep you to from realizing how much respect I have for you, your opinions, and your dedication to sharing all that you’ve learned with us.

      Thank you powwow. You have my unending thanks and respect.

      • powwow says:

        Thank you.

        [For the record, the final Senate vote count on Reid’s Sacrosanct Deal, announced at 5:40 p.m., was 72-23.]

  8. bluewombat says:

    Hope this isn’t too far OT, but, from NYT:

    The president of Serbia said that Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused of ordering the mass killings of Muslims in 1995, would be sent to The Hague for trial

    God, I’m so envious of the Serbs: they know what to do with their war criminals.

  9. bmaz says:

    But if the Senate essentially doesn’t exist anymore as a legislative body, because a handful of Party leaders have it by the throat, hostage to their backroom deals (often dictated by the White House), as this experience, absent Senator Paul’s resistance, would indicate, well, let’s just say that our problems are a whole lot larger than the PATRIOT Act.

    That is EXACTLY what we have. Did you see that Leahy today made a big announcement about co-sponsoring a bill to extend Mueller at FBI for two more years?? Leahy, the guy who actually got one of the anthrax letters, is fronting for the Administration on Mueller, the guy leading the whitewash coverup of the Amerithrax investigation.

    • OldFatGuy says:

      Well, let’s be clear, it wasn’t Leahy himself was it? Wasn’t it staffers? Perhaps if he had been exposed HIMSELF he would view things differently.

      Or am I misremembering that? Was it Leahy himself exposed? Sorry if I’m misremembering that.

      But yeah, you’re right, that is EXACTLY what we have.

      Now, what do we do about it? Cause I’m getting so discouraged.

  10. brothbarden says:

    had a long conversation with my new tea party congressman who replaced a blew dog dim (loved wars, supported the patriot act, voted for Tarp, supported the insurance healthcare over Medicare for all). told him I was unhappy with him voting for the extension of the patriot act, support continuing wars, and voting for the Ryan budget (you may want to look at the results in NY26).

    what’s the use

    need a real choice in 2012

    • OldFatGuy says:

      Yeah, that’ll do it!!

      Why didn’t anyone think of that BEFORE the vote?? Darnit!

      (Do I really need the /s tag here?)

  11. mswinkle says:

    I vote for FDL to start covering protest going on in greece, spain etc that MSM is blocking from the news. We need to get this out there, so people here can start seeing we can push back. Congress works for us and it is about high time they found out that they can not keep pushing through laws that restrict our freedom, allow us to be groped at checkpoints, enrich their buddies, and screw us. I think we should make July 4th the day we stand up in cities across this country and demand we get our country back. Yes we can

  12. OhioGringo says:

    I’m PBNS–Pissed But Not Surprised. Thanks for posting this. I just lost all respect for Senator Mark Udall. His father was a far better and more principled man.

    The national Democrats are just the other wing of the governing Fascist Party. Of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. In a way, the Democrats are even worse than the Republicans, for they preach liberty and justice for the little guy, then turn around and stab him in the back.

    Every time.

  13. workingclass says:

    I feel great pity for all Democrats everywhere today. But especially in the state of Nevada. You must feel so ashamed. How do you bear it?

    Harry Reid is beneath contempt. He is a coward, a liar, a traitor and a disgrace to the human race. Actual people contributed money to his campaign and endorsed his evil with their vote. How sick and twisted do you have to be to actively support this slimy Fascist dirt bag?

    All of you good little Germans, think about what you are doing.

  14. Oval12345678akaJamesKSayre says:

    Seig Heils all around…

    Partisan Democratic fascists love it when their party wants to impose a spy-state dictatorship, they are only slightly less happy when it is being done by Republicans…

  15. free market libertarian says:

    What is everyone’s opinion that a law that’s un-constitutional has no force of law and is therefore null and void?

    You probably can’t get governors to nullify it, maybe state legislators.
    A course of action that might succeed is to get legislation passed at community and municipal levels that nullify the PATRIOT Act and then those nullifying communities could join into larger groups which eventually encompass large areas or entire cities and states. Those municipalities will have a large influence in the state legislatures.

    And don’t tell me that municipalities, communities, and cities or states can’t pass laws nullifying the federal or state governments; of course they can. For example, if a state passes an unconstitutional law that says “it’s illegal citizens to help the homeless” that law is not binding and not considered law.

    Legislators are not dictators and just cause they pass a law doesn’t mean people have to follow it.

    • bmaz says:

      You might check out something called federal preemption; it is pretty important. And a federal law is not “unconstitutional” until a federal court, ultimately the Supreme Court, says it is.

      • free market libertarian says:

        Thomas Woods, author of the book “Nullification”, answers a similar objection with the following (link: )

        “The Supreme Court declared itself infallible in 1958.”

        The obscure obiter dicta of Cooper v. Aaron (1958) is sometimes raised against nullification. Here the Supreme Court expressly declared its statements to have exactly the same status as the text of the Constitution itself. But no matter what absurd claims the Court makes for itself, Madison’s point above holds – the very structure of the system, and the very nature of the federal Union, logically require that the principals to the compact possess a power to examine the constitutionality of federal laws. Given that the whole argument involves who must decide such questions in the last resort, citing the Supreme Court against it begs the whole question – indeed, it should make us wonder if those who answer this way even understand the question.

        Madison’s point to which he refers is the following

        The resolution [of 1798] of the General Assembly [of Virginia] relates to those great and extraordinary cases, in which all the forms of the Constitution may prove ineffectual against infractions dangerous to the essential right of the parties to it. The resolution supposes that dangerous powers not delegated, may not only be usurped and executed by the other departments, but that the Judicial Department also may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution; and consequently that the ultimate right of the parties to the Constitution, to judge whether the compact has been dangerously violated, must extend to violations by one delegated authority, as well as by another, by the judiciary, as well as by the executive, or the legislature.

        I think the mistake you’re making is you expect the federal system to rule against itself. Maybe if the Supreme Court was actually independent but it isn’t; Presidents tried and succeeded to stack the court in their favor.

        • bmaz says:

          Honestly, this is simply rubbish. It is the legal equivalent of birtherism, trutherism and the people who claim the IRS is illegal and “de-tax” themselves. It is fantasy.

          • free market libertarian says:

            It was the the arguments used in the constitutional convention in Virginia otherwise the Virginians wouldn’t ratify the Constitution.

            Federal preemption only applies when the federal laws in question are made in pursuance of the Constitution.

            But regardless of history, and it would be a big mistake to ignore history on the subject, think to yourself what would restrain a federal government that usurped power? In your view which you laid out in comment 39, nothing except hoping some judge somewhere ruled in your favor possibly many years after which might as well be essentially never in a never ending war on terror and in a federal government which has essentially declared the everyone in the whole world it’s enemy until proven innocent.

          • free market libertarian says:

            By the way bmaz, if you have sound legal arguments showing or proving it’s “rubbish” then maybe you can post them or send them to Thomas Woods, the author of that book and website.

  16. bobschacht says:

    Thanks for this post, bmaz.

    Where are the other Democrats who used to have such alarm when it was the Bush/Cheney Administration doing these things?

    Yes indeed; where, for example, is Sheldon Whitehouse, who used to be such a stalwart on such matters? I haven’t heard a peep out of him for at least 2 years. And where, ferpetesakes, is the whole progressive caucus?

    Bob in AZ