Out With the Old, In With the New

The civil liberties community let out a collective sigh of relief when the 109th Congress adjourned for the last time.  The midterm elections and resulting leadership changes makes the ACLU optimistic about the prospect of increased oversight and better protections for civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.  However it certainly won’t be clear sailing in the 110th Congress for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Lawmakers in the 109th Congress failed to act as an adequate check on the Bush administration’s excessive abuses of power.  Some of the resulting losses for civil liberties include:

•    Military Commissions Act passage;
•    Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s conformation;
•    Real ID Act passage;
•    Patriot Act reauthorization without necessary changes; and
•    Cybercrime Treaty ratification.

However there were many victories for civil liberties:

•    Voting Rights Act renewal without dilution;
•    Failure to authorize the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program;
•    Defeat of a constitutional amendment banning flag “desecration;