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Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Patriot Act and historical revisionism

From a new AP story about the Patriot Act:
From its inception, the law's increased surveillance powers have been criticized by both liberals and conservatives as infringements on free speech rights and protections against unwarranted searches and seizures.
"From its inception"...?

We've certainly heard numerous libertarian arguments against the law during Obama's presidency, and even during Dubya's second term. But when the law was signed in October 2001 (a very short while after September 11), the few voices raised against it were -- as I recall -- all liberal.

In the Senate, the only vote against the Patriot Act was cast by Russ Feingold.

In the House, only three Republicans voted against the act; 211 voted in favor. 145 Democrats voted in favor, 66 voted against. Those who can honestly recall the hysteria of the times will have to admit that those 66 congressfolk showed remarkable courage.

Think back to late 2001-early 2002. Does anyone recall any major right-wing pundit making an argument against the Patriot Act? What were we hearing back then from Ann Coulter? Rush Limbaugh? The Fox team?

Here is Ann Coulter on Patriot Act opponents, from early 2003:
Manifestly, there is no civil-liberties crisis in this country. Consequently, people who claim there is must have a different goal in mind. What else can you say of such people but that they are traitors?
She pretty much spoke for the entire conservative movement when she spoke of the need "to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too." Richard Perle called Sy Hersh a terrorist. That was the language conservatives routinely used at the time.

For a reminder of how things played out in that period, take a look at this timeline:
December 2001: In response to Democratic plans to question parts of the USA Patriot Act during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, John Ashcroft suggests that people who disagree with the administration's anti-terrorism policies are on the side of the terrorists.
Right-wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, argued in favor of the Act. Conversely, warnings against Patriot Act abuses came from the ACLU, the NAACP, the Federation of American Scientists, Amnesty International, The Electronic Frontiers foundation, Michael Moore and (once the great unpleasantness in Iraq began) a host of anti-war activists.

I've been taking a brief look at the usenet discussions of the Patriot Act between September, 2001 and March, 2002. (Usenet provides an interesting way to revisit the give-and-take of old battles.) So far, I've not found a single non-liberal voice raised against it -- with the possible exception of this guy, whose politics seem hard to classify.

Yes, you can point to conservatives who came out against this legislation eventually. But that's not what I'm talking about. The AP story spoke of the bill's inception.

The press agency's misleading rewrite of history only can aid those tea partiers who now seek to recast the Patriot Act as a liberal assault on liberty. As I've said before: History is not Calvinball. You can't make up the rules as you go along.

Not all liberals opposed the Patriot Act in 2001 (although many who voted Aye did so for fear of losing their jobs). But for the first year or two, there were no non-liberal opponents -- at least, none who came to the media's attention.

The "strange bedfellows" phenomenon did not begin until mid-2003, when some libertarian groups came out against the act. So did former Republican congressman Bob Barr (who had voted in favor of the legislation), Phyllis Schlafly and Grover Norquist (who is married to a Palestinian). To the best of my recollection, none of those people spoke up in late 2001 or early 2002.

If you can recall an exception, please correct me. But don't play any unfair games with the chronology: The key phrase here is "From its inception."
Of course there were no such critiques of the Patriot Act coming from the right. You have nailed the Times for a blatant act of false equivalency.

They work very hard on this meme. I doubt if five minutes go by in the corporate media without someone saying "this is true of both Democrats and Republicans," and lying through their teeth by doing so.
Well, there was Ron Paul, but you already mentioned him by way of the three Republicans who voted against the act. Other than that, the conspiracy folks were all over it, of course, and as you mentioned previously a lot of them are righties of various stripes. In general though, you are absolutely correct that the overwhelming majority of opponents to it early on where Liberals and Liberal organizations.
Libertarian Conservatives (whom you hate), Paleo Conservatives (whom you hate), Conspiracist Conservatives (whom you hate with a bloody passion), and Patriot/Survivalist Conservatives (whom you hate almost as much) were virtually ALL opposed to the Patriot Act -- and screamed and scried as much, from the very "inception".

You sometimes-irrational hate has, again, blinded you to history, Joseph.


Your avid reader and fan (nevertheless),
Andy Tyme
Not only was the John Birch Society opposed to the Patriot Act before 9/11, they were reporting on the fact that the Hart-Rudman Commission (created in 1998 and included Newt Gingrich, CFR president Leslie Gelb, former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, and former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, author of the Patriot Act)was proposing implementing a Department of Homeland Security and the various other changes that have occurred since 9/11.
I mixed up my Schlesinger and Sensenbrenner (both James). Schlesinger is former CIA director and current Vice Chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Sensenbrenner is Author of the Patriot Act and current Chairman of the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
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