The way I remember it, all those years ago, when the Bush Administration didn’t get its way on a matter of national security, they would instantly talk about the potential harm to the citizenry and how Congress must give him whatever he wanted to keep Americans safe. The Obama Administration may not be as heavy-handed in their approach, but basically they have the same message:
The director of the National Counterterrorism Center on Wednesday said it would be “extremely problematic” if provisions in the Patriot Act were allowed to expire later this month.
“The Patriot Act remains a very important tool, especially with respect to homegrown extremists,” Michael Leiter said during testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee.
“From my perspective to have the Patriot Act expire on February 28 would be extremely problematic. It would reduce our ability to detect terrorists,” Leiter said.
Leiter went on to say that the executive branch and the FISA courts do oversight on all these provisions, so there’s adequate self-policing going on and don’t you worry your little head about it.
In a sense, I’m at least happy that there was a hearing where the question of whether or not to extend these parts of the Patriot Act came up. Granted, the hearing was scheduled the day after the vote, but at this point I’ll take whatever debate I can get.
But the pattern is so familiar. Congress, in this case by the slimmest of margins, actually wants to know what’s going on when they authorize copious amounts of warrantless spying and give the FBI massive amounts of power to monitor the American people. And the executive branch, be it Republican or Democratic, reacts the same way, telling Congress they must have these powers or the terrorists win. You love your children, don’t you? Wouldn’t you want to know they’ll be safe when you tuck them in at night?
It was naive of anyone to think that any executive branch would willingly give up their own power. Congress, thanks to Republican doddering, made the effort to put the slightest of brakes on that power temporarily. But they were promptly told that they endangered America, so that will be that.