A federal judge has ordered the release or accounting of thousands of pages of Federal Bureau of Investigation documents regarding the government’s use of the powers granted under the USA PATRIOT Act.
The documents, which may be anywhere from 5,000 to 18,000 pages, were requested by the Electronic Privacy Information Center under the Freedom of Information Act several months ago, but the FBI tried to delay releasing the documents as long as possible.
Under the order, the FBI must release 1,500 pages every 15 days until it’s complete, and within 60 days tell EPIC how many documents remain.
In October, documents released under FOIA showed that the FBI engaged in intelligence activities contrary to law. In those cases, the incidents were chalked up to agent mistakes and poor training.
The order comes as the clock counts down toward the expected renewal of the Patriot Act. Last month Congress passed a five-week extension to several key provisions which were set to expire; they now expire February 3.
And President Bush criticized Democrats for playing politics with the Patriot Act renewal on Tuesday.
“For partisan reasons, in my mind, people have not stepped up,” Bush told reporters, with 19 federal prosecutors by his side. “The enemy has not gone away; they’re still there, and I expect Congress to understand that we’re still at war and they’ve got to give us the tools necessary to win this war.”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, speaking to reporters earlier in the day, said Senate Democrats are simply doing the bidding of liberal special interest groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the broad surveillance power authorized by the act. Democrats are trying to “appease” the ACLU “because they want to weaken and undermine the Patriot Act,” McClellan said.
Adopting campaign-style tactics, Bush and his aides plan to accuse Democrats of jeopardizing national security to further their political agenda, a tack that worked well for the White House in the 2002 and 2004 elections. But the political environment is different now, with Bush less popular and Democrats better organized in opposition.
Moreover, key Republicans are also raising objections to Bush’s broad interpretation of presidential power. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was among the first to demand hearings on the NSA intercepts, and four GOP senators who typically back Bush in policy disputes played crucial roles in blocking the full reauthorization of the Patriot Act before Congress adjourned shortly before Christmas. — Washington Post
I can’t wait for the first batch of documents to come out of this order. I just can’t wait. I’m salivating with anticipation.