Dems settle in Patriot Act debate

Jen Steer

President Bush’s second term in office has been that of the typical lame-duck president. With low approval ratings, controversy over his knowledge of Hurricane Katrina’s strength and debates over the constitutionality of his wiretapping plans, Bush’s second term has made Democrats across the country want to stand up and yell, “I told you so.”

However, Bush and company got a critical win as the Senate approved the renewal of the USA Patriot Act, details on Thursday. Today, the House will take a vote, and things are not looking good.

Considering a vote of 89 to 10 in the Senate, it seems like the Dems just gave up. When the debates began in December over the renewal of the Act, all of the Senate’s Democrats and five Republicans were urging for changes, explains the Christian Science Monitor on Friday.

These changes to the Patriot Act, if passed by the House and signed by Bush, will be anything but monumental. Changes that were originally intended to give people more civil liberties fell short. Where the Democratic senators should have really stood up for civil liberties, they settled for alterations to the Patriot Act that will barely be noticed.

For instance, one of the main changes to the Patriot Act no longer requires people who receive subpoenas for terrorist related investigations to disclose the name of their lawyer to the FBI. This small fact certainly does not change the entire intention and meaning of the Patriot Act.

Another tiny change is that these same people who receive subpoenas are now allowed to challenge the fact that they are not permitted to tell anyone about being subpoenaed. I call this the “Secret Subpoena Clause.”

But the Patriot Act does not just keep us safe from terrorists. Oh no, the Patriot Act does so much more. It requires pharmacies to keep drugs that can be used to make methamphetamine behind the counter, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Friday. Now, Osama bin Laden’s cronies will no longer be able to control America’s youth by selling meth to kids. The world is officially a safer place because people have to ask the pharmacist for some Sudafed.

And what about that silly part of the act that focused on library records? Well, don’t worry, because the Patriot Act explains that only libraries that are Internet service providers have to supply information for terrorist investigations. So no one will ever know that I checked out How to Make a Car Into a Meth Lab.

The issue of port security has become a central debate in the approval of the Dubai port sale. The Patriot Act does include some provisions to provide for better port security, according to the Los Angeles Times Friday. However, since this issue has been neglected for so long, it’s doubtful that these precautions will actually be put into effect.

Overall, the USA Patriot Act has not only nothing to do with being a patriot, but it also takes away freedoms. The changes that were intended to maintain adequate support for civil liberties barely made a dent on the list of problems people have had with the act.

Jen Steer is a sophomore broadcast news major and assistant forum editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].