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December 12, 2005

A REASON TO VOTE AGAINST THE PATRIOT ACT EXTENSION: Mission creep.

A conference report by Senate and House negotiators to extend for four years provisions of the USA Patriot Act includes a comprehensive anti-methamphetamine package restricting the sale of products containing ingredients needed to cook the drug and providing new tools to police and prosecutors to combat dealers.

Sens. Jim Talent, Missouri Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the Combat Meth Act -- together with anti-meth measures championed in the House -- were included in the Reauthorization Conference Report filed Thursday.

Okay, see, the problem with this is that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Putting it in the Patriot Act just reinforces my fears -- present since the beginning -- that this had more to do with finding an excuse to enact bureaucratic wishlists into law than with protecting us from terrorism. And Feinstein's presence, alas, indicates that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans on this. Nonetheless, this is a dumb idea, it undercuts the entire rationale for the Patriot Act, and it's a reason to be suspicious of the whole renewal enterprise. (Bumped to top).

More on the Patriot Act here.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Glenn -- not for attribution, because of my position, please.

As a lobbyist with a passing involvement in anti-meth legislation, attaching the Combat Meth Act to the Patriot Act does not represent "mission creep" of the Patriot Act. Sponsors of the Combat Meth Act had been looking for several months for an appropriate -- i.e., popular and bound-to-pass -- bill to attach their provisions to in order to speed passage. The Patriot Act reauthorization is the vehicle, but not the impetus. Anyway, it's SOP, for better or worse.

My trouble with the Combat Meth Act is that state legislatures have been enacting their own anti-meth laws, reflecting local wisdom, experience and policy choices. Passage of a federal bill preempts those decisions. The feds get into the act because fighting meth is politically popular, not because the new law is particulary well-considered.

Well, yes. It's another piece of dumb symbolic legislation aimed at getting incumbents reelected. And I realize that attaching a dumb bill to a bill that's sure to pass so that people don't make as much of an issue of its dumbness is standard operating procedure. But bills about the war, in a time of war, call for a degree of self-discipline that's lacking here.

UPDATE: Jeralyn Merritt is also unimpressed.

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