Presidents Will Never Give Up Power
Julian Sanchez chronicles the Obama administration's latest "Kabuki" on reforming Bush-era executive overreach:
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed to abandon hope of bringing any real change to the Patriot Act. A lopsided and depressingly bipartisan majority approved legislation that would reauthorize a series of expanded surveillance powers set to expire at the end of the year. Several senators had proposed that reauthorization be wedded to safeguards designed to protect the privacy of innocent Americans from indiscriminate data dragnets--but behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Obama administration ensured that even the most modest of these were stripped from the final bill now being sent to the full Senate.
The supposed rationale for rejecting these changes--many of which the very same Judiciary Committee had unanimously favored just four years earlier--was that any new limitations on broad search powers might interfere with an "ongoing investigation." During hearings, one Justice Department official had alluded to an "important, sensitive collection program" involving 215 orders, and Attorney General Eric Holder publicly implied--though he did not state outright--that the new powers had played a crucial role in the capture of alleged bomb plotter Najibullah Zazi. But there is ample reason for doubt.