Patriot games

The attorney general warns of dire consequences if the Patriot Act expires at the end of the year. It doesn't have to.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 21, 2005 6:11PM (EST)

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales warned today that if the Senate impasse over renewal of the Patriot Act continues, "when Americans wake up on Jan. 1, we will not be as safe." It's the latest round in a game of chicken the Bush administration -- with the help of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist -- is playing with the Patriot Act.

By our count, that game is now over -- or it should be. According to Sens. Chuck Schumer, John Sununu and Patrick Leahy, 52 senators have now signed a letter saying they support legislation that would extend the existing Patriot Act for three months in order to give senators time to resolve their differences over the renewal legislation that has emerged from a House-Senate conference committee.

Frist opposes such an extension, and the White House is threatening a presidential veto. That's all within their rights. But if provisions of the Patriot Act expire on Dec. 31 -- and if that really makes Americans less safe than they would be otherwise -- then isn't it pretty clear who ought to get the blame?

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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