July 9th, 2004

Like I thought anything would change...

Guess no more trying to take over the world via work computer.
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Bush Wins; House Leaves Patriot Act As Is
By ALAN FRAM

Associated Press Writer

Published July 9, 2004 at 10:25 AM CDT


WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans used an extra-long vote to derail a drive to weaken the USA Patriot Act, handing a campaign-season victory to President Bush and angering Democrats and GOP conservatives who led the unsuccessful effort.
"You win some, and some get stolen," said conservative Rep. C.L. Butch Otter, R-Idaho.
He was a lead sponsor of the provision that would have prevented authorities from using the anti-terrorism law to demand information on book buyers and library users.
The proposal, which had drawn a veto threat from the White House, was defeated 210-210, with a majority needed to prevail. House GOP leaders extended what is normally a 15-minute roll call by 23 additional minutes. That was enough to persuade about 10 Republicans to switch their votes to no, including Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.
Wamp said he changed his vote after being shown Justice Department documents asserting that terrorists have communicated over the Internet via public library computers.
"This new world we live in is going to force us to have some constraints," Wamp said.
As the amendment's prospects shifted to defeat from an apparent victory, Democrats chanted, "Shame, shame, shame." The tactic was reminiscent of last year's House passage of the Medicare overhaul measure. Then, GOP leaders held the roll call open for an extra three hours until they got the votes they needed.
The House vote came amid Bush administration warnings of an increased risk of attacks this summer and fall because terrorists may try to disrupt the November's elections.
It also came just four months ahead of an election in which the conduct of the fight against terrorism promises to be a central issue.
Besides successfully fending off the effort to weaken the law, the veto threat underscored Bush's determination to strike an aggressive stance on law enforcement and terrorism.
The House has voted before to block portions of the nearly 3-year-old law, but Congress has never succeeded in rolling back any of it. Yet neither has Bush succeeded in his quest to expand some of its powers.
Supporters of the law said the Patriot Act has been a valuable tool in anti-terror efforts. The law, enacted in the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave the government stronger powers to conduct investigations and detain people.

"I would say, in my judgment, that lives have been saved, terrorists have been disrupted, and our country is safer" because of the act, said Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is under consideration by Bush to become the next CIA director.
Otter and Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., led the effort to block one section of the law that lets authorities get special court orders requiring book dealers, libraries and others to surrender records such as purchases and Internet sites visited on a library computer.
The lawmakers contended the provision undermines civil liberties and threatens to let the government snoop into the reading habits of innocent Americans.
"We are all in that together," Sanders, one of Congress' most liberal lawmakers, said of the anti-terror effort. "In the fight against terrorism, we've got to keep our eyes on two prizes: the terrorists and the United States Constitution."
Thursday's showdown was over an amendment to a $39.8 billion measure financing the Justice, Commerce and State departments for next year, which passed, 397-18. The Senate has yet to write its version of the bill.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., read a letter from the Justice Department stating that "as recently as this past winter and spring, a member of a terrorist group closely affiliated with al-Qaida" had used Internet services at a public library. The letter mentioned no specifics, Wolf said.
"If we can stop what took place in my area," said Wolf, whose district is near the Pentagon, which was a Sept. 11 target, "then I want to stop that, because we've gone to enough funerals."
Critics of the Patriot Act argued that even without it, investigators can get bookstore, library and other records simply by obtaining subpoenas or search warrants if a judge agrees the items are relevant to a case.
The Justice Department, however, says that it is actually more difficult to get such information in international terrorism or spying cases. Under the Patriot Act, the government must first prove to a special court that the items are needed for one of these specific investigations and that the probe is not based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment.
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On the Net:
Information on the bill, H.R. 4754, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/
© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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