Monday, June 1, 2015

While You Were Sleeping...

That sound you hear is the NSA shutting down its computers.

It seems to me that keeping the country safe should rank pretty high on the federal government’s “to do” list. And given the ever increasing number of people that we have managed to piss off it also seems appropriate that government use whatever legal means it may have at its disposal to accomplish that task.

At the same time I cherish my privacy and I have a deep seeded aversion to people sticking their nose into my private business.

So when it comes to the NSA randomly gobbling up metadata on citizens’ conversations I am as they say “conflicted.” Conflicted because while I fully realize the value the NSA program and the good intentions of its operatives I am well aware of the human frailties that lead to overreach.

The conflict between national security and civil liberties is an important and substantive debate that we need to have. The Patriot Act is an extremely controversial piece of legislation that lies at the very epicenter of that debate.

At 12:01 this morning certain provisions of the Patriot Act…including the data mining authorities…expired. They expired in part because our elected “leaders” in the senate waited once again until the eleventh hour to enter into the debate. What should have been a substantive debate about a very important matter was governed by a stop watch. If procrastination and political cowardice form the bedrock of good governance then we are in excellent hands.

As I say I am conflicted about the expiration of these provisions. But I am steadfast in my disgust with leadership’s lack of spine. McConnell and his cronies knew these provisions were going to sunset and he knew that the debate for their renewal would be heated. Yet time and time again he refused to bring the matter to the floor; opting rather to entertain politically motivated votes on bills that would never get passed the president’s desk. McConnell gambled that by waiting until the eleventh hour he would force the senate to pass a short term extension and in essence do what congress does best…kick the controversial can down the road. McConnell gambled and lost…bested by Rand Paul, the junior senator from McConnell’s own state.

If you believe that the NSA data mining program was an infringement on your civil liberties then you probably see yesterday’s outcome as good for the country. You may be right.

The outcome may be good for the country...but it wasn’t good governance.

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