September 12 Forever

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"September 12 Forever"

Julian Sanchez’s take on the FISA fiasco:

Like Bill Murray’s hapless weatherman in Groundhog Day, America is locked in a perpetual September 12, 2001. How else to explain this weekend’s frenzied passage of a sweeping amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), effectively authorizing the program of extrajudicial wiretaps first approved in secret by President George W. Bush shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001? How else to make sense of a Democratic Congress capitulating to the demands of a wildly unpopular executive for yet another expansion of government surveillance powers, mere months after the disclosure of the rampant abuses that followed the last such expansion?

The hasty passage of the massive USA PATRIOT Act, a scant 45 days after those attacks, was ill-considered but understandable. Six years later, however, the administration has grown comfortable with the prerogatives panic affords. And, perversely, it has learned that it can continue to wield those prerogatives even under a Democratic majority, provided it insists on regarding Congress always and only as a last resort. […]

But then, that was almost certainly the point. Ingenious as the White House has proven at recreating the expedient panic of 2001, however, it is not September 12 anymore. Along with a chance to more cooly appraise the terrorist threat, the intervening years have provided ample evidence of how little this administration can be trusted with its existing powers, let alone new ones. When lawmakers return to Washington this coming September, they might try a bit harder to recall the year as well as the month.

It should be kept in mind, however, that most Democrats didn’t capitulate at all and of those who did some unknown and unknowable portion probably just agree with Bush that executive power should be essentially unlimited.

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