Yesterday in the House, there was a debate about extending certain provisions of the Patriot Act. The Hill chose to highlight an exchange between Cleveland area Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Jim Sensenbrenner. Dennis was arguing against the bill.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was one of the more vocal opponents, and cited a report that said the FBI has conducted thousands of warrantless searches using so-called “national security letters.” These letters are a form of subpoena that the FBI and other agencies have used to demand records, and they are not subject to any judicial oversight.
However, it turns out that America’s “Most Courageous” Congressman may be America’s least informed Congressman. The national security letters were not created by the Patriot Act, but 25 years ago by a bill sponsored by his own party.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who sponsored the bill, replied in his own one-minute speech that the Patriot Act did not authorize national security letters, which were instead authorized in a 1986 bill authored by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.).
Oops. Dennis wasn’t done, though. He had another trick up his sleeve.
“Oh yeah? Well…the Patriot Act…it gives more agencies use of national security letters! So there!”
Later in the debate, Kucinich said the Patriot Act expanded the list of agencies that are authorized to issue national security letters. But Sensenbrenner again responded by saying the authority for the letters was made permanent in 2006, and that the Patriot Act actually gave recipients of these letters the option of judicial review.
Dennis then slapped his forehead like Homer Simpson and exclaimed “DOH!!”
OK, I made that last part up. But it would have been entirely appropriate. And it’s certainly the reaction of most people outside Ohio’s 10th district every time they re-elect this goof.