Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sometimes you really don't want to be correct...

... especially if it's not good news.

Three months ago, I made ten predictions about the first two years of an Obama administration.

Here's the first one:

1. We will not see the repeal or roll-back of any of the Constitutional invasions of the past eight years. The Obama Administration is not going to dismantle surveillance laws or even major portions of the Patriot Act, because they will decide that these are useful tools for the war on terror and law enforcement, and perfectly justifiable in the correct hands. After all, we now have a Department of Justice we can trust, don't we? So what have you got to hide?

Here's the stance of Obama Attorney General nominee Eric Holder on keeping a key provision of the Patriot Act:

President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general has endorsed an extension of the law that allows federal agents to demand Americans' library and bookstore records as part of terrorism probes, dismaying a national group of independent booksellers.

Eric Holder said at his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he supports renewing a section of the USA Patriot Act that allows FBI agents investigating international terrorism or espionage to seek records from businesses, libraries and bookstores. If not renewed by Congress, the provision will expire at the end of 2009.

The searches must be authorized by a court that meets secretly and has approved the government's requests in nearly all cases, according to congressional reports. The target of the search does not have to be suspected of terrorism or any other crime. A permanent gag order that accompanies each search prohibits the business or library from telling anyone about it.

Holder said he realizes the provision has been controversial and he will seek more information from department staff before making a final decision, if confirmed as attorney general. He didn't elaborate on his support for the law, but said at another point in the hearing that his top priority would be to protect Americans from terrorism, using "every available tactic ... within the letter and spirit of the Constitution."

If this is added to the skepticism that many on the left are now feeling (see here and here to get started), in the wake of a secret court's ruling, are now feeling about Obama's willingness to halt warrantless wiretapping, and you begin to understand a Libertarian truism about big government:

Once it has acquired a particular power, government does not give it up voluntarily, no matter which wing of the Demopublicans is in charge.

Government is not self-limiting.


Anonymous said...

UGH, keep these posts coming.

Incumbency vs. democracy and the resonate conflictions therein will have to be controlled by some severe campaign finance reform at the least.

Anonymous said...

This TPM post makes the case that some justice can be expected.

Delaware Watch said...

"Once it has acquired a particular power, government does not give it up voluntarily, no matter which wing of the Demopublicans is in charge."

Does this apply to keeping Gitmo in operation?

Steven H. Newton said...

Gitmo is a combination of a place AND a set of asserted powers. Closing it is important and symbolic, and you will note that I am firmly in Obama's corner on this one.


The proof of the pudding with respect to powers is whether the government actually gives up the "power" of extraordinary rendition; of drawing a legal distinction that takes away rights from "enemy combatants"; and the disposition of the prisoners there--as well as following through on outlawing torture.

We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Why give it back? It will just make it harder to acquire next time you think you need it.