-- Kessler writes that "This year alone, the Democrats overwhelmingly voted five times to kill the Patriot Act." In fact, in the final vote on the reauthorization of the act in March, only nine Senate Democrats voted against it.
-- Kessler repeatedly portrays Democrats as opposing the entire Patriot Act when, in fact, most opposed only specific provisions. As Rep. Jane Harman, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said: “We must extend it, mend it, but not end it.”
-- Kessler suggests that one Patriot Act provision that Democrats opposed was removal of the "wall" between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but he offers no examples of Democrats who specifically opposed that provision -- perhaps because there are none. No Democratic opposition that we've seen centered on the "wall."
-- Kessler writes the following:
Under the Patriot Act, each roving wiretap, as they are called, has to be approved by a judge, so there is no question about infringing on civil liberties any more than when a judge approves a search of the house of a suspected child molester. Yet Democrats have portrayed the act as a monstrous invasion of rights.
This, again, conflates questions about a specific provision to opposition to the entire Patriot Act. What Democrats actually opposed was a Bush administration proposal to make roving wiretaps permanent; the renewal puts a four-year sunset provision on them.
-- Kessler also offers a strangely backhanded defense of the idea that we should unequivocally trust the FBI:
Since the days when J. Edgar Hoover ordered illegal wiretaps and improper surveillance, the FBI as an organization has not engaged in illegal conduct. If the FBI cannot be trusted to wiretap within the framework of the law, why trust agents to make arrests or carry weapons?
Doesn't the fact that the FBI did, in fact, engage in "illegal wiretaps and improper surveillance" make it imperative that certain safeguards be in place instead of Kessler's "go and sin no more" benediction?
-- Kessler writes that "Democrats have also claimed that under another provision of the act, the FBI can use 'sneak and peek' tactics in libraries to probe people's reading habits without informing the targets until after a search." Then, he claims that "the FBI has no interest in anyone's reading habits." Then why is he complaining about it? He should, therefore, have no problem with a provision in the renewal that offer more protections for library records.
Further, the main issue regarding library searches had nothing to do with the "sneak and peek" tactics Kessler cites; they involve the fact that the original Patriot Act let libraries be served with National Security Letters, a type of subpoena that forces the party being subpoenaed into a non-disclosure agreement severely limiting their legal rights. The renewal eliminates libraries as a recipient of NSLs.
UPDATE: Further contradicts Kessler's suggestion that Democrats oppose the Patriot Act's dismantling of the "wall" between intelligence and law enforcement, even Sen. Russ Feingold -- the only senator who voted against the original Patriot Act law in 2001 -- has said, "Nobody wants to put the wall back up."