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May 27, 2011
PATRIOT Act Renewed - But is it Legal?
POLITICO reports that the House and the Senate have passed a four-year renewal of the PATRIOT Act:
"The bill approved Thursday renews three terrorism-fighting tools that authorize court-approved roving wiretaps, access to business and other records relevant to a terrorism investigation, and the monitoring of so-called "lone wolf" terror suspects."
The bill was shepherded through the Senate by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said:
"Although the PATRIOT Act is not a perfect law, it provides our intelligence and law enforcement communities with crucial tools to keep America safe and thwart terrorism."
Gee! Isn't it incredible that Democrats once thought that the "Nazi" Bush and his evil Goebbels, Dick Cheney, were "shredding the Constitution" and turning America into a "fascist state," but now they regard the PATRIOT Act as a thoughtful, useful, necessary piece of legislation. Reid even went so far as to accuse libertarian Rand Paul (R-KY) of "trying to protect terrorists" for his objections to provisions in the bill.
If you feel like Alice in Wonderland, wait -- it gets even weirder still:
"Because President Barack Obama is traveling in Europe, a White House official said the bill will quickly be signed into law using an autopen, a machine that replicates the president's signature."
Now, according to my reading of the Constitution, this is totally illegal. Article 1, Sec. 7 of the Constitution quite clearly states:
"Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to THE President of the United States: If HE approve HE shall sign it..." (emphasis mine).
There is absolutely no doubt that the Constitution requires the bill be presented to the person occupying the office of the presidency -- not have his signature artificially put on the bill by machine.
Art. I, Sec. 7 also stipulates that if the bill is not signed or vetoed within ten days, it becomes law without the president's signature. One could argue that if the fake signature is equivalent to no signature, the bill will become law anyway -- but under that scenario the bill would remain invalid for ten days, thereby allowing the "crucial" provisions of the PATRIOT Act to lapse for a ten-day period. The purpose of the machine-signing is ostensibly to avoid the lapse.
This is yet one more example of the absolute contempt that Obama, the "former constitutional law professor" has for the actual Constitution. However, from my perspective lawyers defending clients charged with evidence collected under the PATRIOT Act have a good chance of challenging and excluding any evidence collected against their clients during the ten-day period without an actual presidential signature, when the law is, in fact, invalid.