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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 24, 2005

Law must balance security with liberty


The Patriot Act, which became law in the frenzied weeks following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, has served to harden the national armor in an age in which enemies no longer choose conventional means for their assaults. Everyone agrees that America needs to close its vulnerabilities; the tragic events in London underscore the unending need for vigilance.

By now, most of us also recognize that some of the Patriot Act's provisions must be reviewed. So it's encouraging to see our delegates on Capitol Hill taking a reasoned approach toward the legislation, weighing the interests of national security against those of civil liberties. And the Senate is poised to accomplish stronger protections of individual rights.

U.S. House representatives voted last week to extend or make permanent most provisions of the law. They eliminated one that enables FBI seizure of records from financial companies, libraries and various other businesses in terrorism probes — a sensible decision. Another casualty was the "roving wiretaps" that follow an individual rather than apply only to a particular telephone.

The vote was decisive, 257-171. But there was evidence of dissension in the ranks. For example, Hawai'i Democrats Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case parted company, with Abercrombie opposing the bill and Case voting in favor.

The Senate is considering more fine-tuning. Its Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for a bill that would require greater oversight of the Justice Department. The measure also would rein in terrorism probes by adding restrictions to secret searches and surveillance.

Voters must keep an eye on another bill that the Senate Intelligence Committee cleared in June: It would make all provisions of the law permanent and give the FBI additional power to issue subpoenas without a judge's approval.

It's up to the Senate now to strike a delicate balance. The bill finally sent to the White House must reflect a healthy regard for civil liberties, central to the liberty that national security is supposed to protect.