This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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.
The Patriot Act, passed in a frightful haste in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, codified a panicked nation's rush to trample the very core of its ideals, as laid down in the Bill of Rights, by giving federal law enforcement agencies the power to go around the rule of law and over the heads of relevant judicial review to spy on anyone our agents suspect of, well, anything.
Three particular provisions were to expire Friday, though Obama has asked for them to be extended and it seems that both houses have the votes to continue them for some period of time. They allow federal agents a huge degree of latitude to tap the phone calls and emails of people with no known criminal history or terrorist links, to search people's business and personal records without showing even the slightest evidence of probable cause to a judge and to get warrants for roving wiretaps, not on particular persons, but on any old "John Doe" suspect the FBI might be curious about.
And when we say "people," we mean you.
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.
Some in Congress are bravely speaking out against the extension of these provisions. They include Utah's Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop but not, sadly, the dean of the delegation, Sen. Orrin Hatch, or its only Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson. Opponents also include Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats.
These provisions do not protect people from terrorists. They protect politicians from being labeled soft on terrorism.
If Obama would listen to his own speech, and members of Congress would read the Constitution they swore to uphold, we might be rid of the odious Patriot Act once and for all.