Last week, the U.S. Senate passed the “Uniting and Strengthening America Act” (S. 1510) by a vote of 96-1. The intent was admirable — strengthen our ability to investigate and eradicate terrorism. But even the best intention can go awry when acted upon in a state of hysteria — such as the hysteria inspired by a terrorist attack that killed 6,000 Americans.
The result is that basic American freedoms, like protesting, are no longer quite as guaranteed as they used to be. As we mentioned last week, the legislation irresponsibly expands the legal definition of “terrorism” to include potentially violent civil demonstrations like the planned World Bank demonstrations. The legislation also makes it dramatically easier for the Justice Department to obtain student records.
While Americans everywhere should be disappointed by the Senate’s abdication of some of our most fundamental rights, Wisconsin residents can be proud of their senator. In yet another example of Sen. Russ Feingold’s dedication to principle instead of politics, he defied the Senate leadership and forced debate on the Senate floor. He then cast the lone dissenting vote on the bill.
As Feingold said during a Saturday address, “Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society. So let us preserve our heritage of basic rights. Let us practice that liberty. And let us fight to maintain the freedom that we call America.”
Feingold fought, and he deserves praise.