Just days after he attacked Mitch McConnell‘s plan to expand the Patriot Act, Libertarian congressman Justin Amash attacked Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for his support of the post-September 11 anti-terrorism legislation.
“As the Senate debates reauthorizing the anti-privacy Patriot Act, let’s recall that Senator Joe Biden co-sponsored the Patriot Act, voted for it, complained it didn’t go far enough, voted for it again, voted for it *again*, and publicly bragged that he ‘wrote that bill,'” Amash tweeted on Wednesday.
The Patriot Act broadened the surveillance powers of U.S. law enforcement agencies when identifying possible terrorists. Critics of the legislation, including Amash, point to its potential for abuse and use on American citizens. As reported by The Washington Post in 2011, the act has been used significantly more often to target drug dealers than terrorists. At the time of the article, it was used in 1,618 drug cases and just 15 terrorism cases.
As reported by BuzzFeed News, Biden has publicly taken credit for the Patriot Act on many occasions.
“I introduced the terrorism bill in ’94 that had a lot of these things in it,” Biden said in 2001, referring to the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995.
In 2002, Biden claimed that Attorney General John Ashcroft called him to confirm that the Patriot Act was essentially his 1994 crime bill.
“Civil libertarians were opposed to it. Right after 1994, and you can ask the attorney general this, because I got a call when he introduced the Patriot Act. He said, ‘Joe, I’m introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994.'”
Notably, former President Bill Clinton, who signed the 1994 crime bill into law, claimed that it substantially exacerbated the problems it intended to fix.
Although Biden voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, he expressed support for certain limitations of the law. For example, he said in 2001 that he was in favor of using it to gather telephone logs but not the content of the calls.
Per Vox, the Senate voted on Wednesday to expand the powers of the Patriot Act to allow the surveillance of Americans’ internet browsing and search history — an amendment to prevent such monitoring failed to pass by just one vote. McConnell allegedly drove the expansion along with the help of Donald Trump and his allies, who are supposedly working together to expand the powers of Attorney General William Barr.
As Amash previously highlighted, Barr has expressed support of the Patriot Act, as well as criticism of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for its alleged restrictiveness.