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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

Spy powers need reform

Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 21: With several provisions of the Patriot Act expiring this year, President Barack Obama has his first real opportunity to rein in Bush-era erosions of Americans’ civil liberties while still ensuring national security.

So it’s good that the White House last week signaled its willingness to narrow the expansive snooping powers granted the federal government in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The next day, senior Democratic senators led by Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin put forward a reform measure that was quickly endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Feingold’s bill would make important changes to the FBI’s use of so-called national security letters, requiring agents to meet standards for suspecting individuals whose financial records are being sought. While the letters still would be issued in secret under gag orders, they would be subject to greater judicial review to make sure the information-gathering was legal.

That’s a legitimate response to inspector-general reports that documented that the national security letters had been used for what amounted to widespread fishing expeditions.

Of all the provisions up for renewal, the authority to track “lone wolf” terrorists not known to be tied to any foreign agent seems the most questionable. Since Obama officials just revealed the provision has never been used, it’s pretty clear that national security doesn’t require this broad authority.

Chicago Tribune, Sept. 21: President Barack Obama recently told a gathering of the AFL-CIO that “one of the fundamental reasons I ran for president was to stand up for working families.”

Those words may ring a little hollow for working people the next time they need to buy a set of tires for the family car.

Obama has slapped a 35 percent tariff on car tires imported from China.

Why would the president hike prices for American consumers? Why would he act in such a blatantly protectionist way against China, a country that holds more U.S. debt than any other nation?

Obama acted on a petition filed by the United Steel Workers – which represents fewer than half the tire workers in the U.S.

These tariffs will not bring jobs back home. If anything, they may prompt some manufacturers to move lower-end tire production from China to countries that don’t face the U.S. tariffs.

More broadly, Obama has sent a terribly damaging message: Protectionism is on the rise in the United States.

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