Thursday, March 17, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
When Tea party candidates throughout the country ran for office last fall, most members offered soaring campaign promises to defend liberty of ordinary Americans, and fight governmental intrusions on basic freedoms. But whatever hopes there were that newly elected Tea Partiers would put the brakes on intrusive domestic surveillance, illegal wire wiretapping and warrantless searches went out the window just 20 days into the new Congress.
With only minor whimpers, Tea Party leaders did an about face by abandoning their previous opposition to the so called Patriot Act, voting to indefinitely extend this Orwellian law that flouts the Bill of Rights. The federal government has now been given carte blanche to spy on everything you do online, every call you make, and every trip you take. “But there is danger out there,” says your congressman. “So just get used to it!” Privacy is gone, so get with the new world. No more basic constitutional protections? “Get over it.”
As Brian Doherty writes in the American Conservative: “Thanks to the massive security apparatus erected after 9/11, the government now wiretaps telephone calls without warrants, creates profiles of citizens even if they’re not suspected of specific crimes, and seizes information without judicial oversight.” In this brave new world, private companies that maintain massive data bases of information on what we are saying, writing, buying and thinking, willingly turnover reams of information about their customers.
Here’s one example. Sprint Nextel provided the government with GPS locations on its subscribers 8 million times in a recent one-year period. Thanks goodness I use AT&T, who, to its credit refused to provide such private information to the FBI without receiving a warrant signed by a judge.
William Pitt stood up in Parliament back in 1763 and declared: “The poorest may, in his cottage, bid his defiance to all the forces of the Crown, the storm may enter; the rain may enter….but the King of England may not enter.” But because of the betrayal of a majority of the members of Congress, including most Tea Partiers, the FBI can now enter our personal cottage of electronic communications without the nuisance of any court oversight.
And three cheers to US Senators on both sides of the aisle who had the courage to stand up for the Bill of Rights. They include Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Jon Tester (Montana), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Tom Udall (New Mexico), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Ron Wyden, and (Oregon), and six other courageous senators. Boos to my home Louisiana delegation, who marched in lock step with political party leadership, and voted against basic American freedoms.
Peggy Noonan was Ronald Reagan’s speech writer and now writes a regular column in the Wall Street Journal. Here are her thoughts on the basic intrusions of the Patriot Act. “When we lose our privacy, we lose some of our humanity; we lose things that are particular to us, that make us separate and distinctive as souls, as, actually children of God. We also lose trust, not only in each other but in our institutions, which we come to fear. People who now have no faith in the security of their medical and financial records, for instance, will have even less faith in their government”
George Bush began the deep decline of basic civil liberties, but Barack Obama, has been no better a protector of the Bill of Rights. The President recently signed into law provisions allowing “roving wiretaps” that allows the FBI to wiretap phones in multiple homes without having to provide the target’s name or even phone number. The mere possibility that a suspect “might” use the phone is enough to justify the wiretap
The FBI continually protests that their investigations will be hindered if they have to go find a judge to approve such invasive surveillance. Getting judicial consent, a foundation of our basic protections, just “slows down the process,” they say. “Hogwash,” says Fox News commentator and former Judge Andrew Napolitano. Here’s his response.
“The time-is-of-the essence argument is nonsense. I once issued a search warrant in my gym shorts from my living room at 3 am, and I know a former FISA court judge who did the same from his cell phone while riding a motorcycle. While neither of these situations is optimal, there are at least written record of what was done to whom and why.”
The so called “Patriot Act” has driven a stake trough the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments-the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Amendments, as well. Conservative columnist John Whitehead put it this way: “In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they told anyone that the government had subpoenaed information: monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause, and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.”
Many Tea Partiers and other Patriot Act vindicators continue to hound us with the supposition that we have to choose between liberty and security. And if your only concern is security, then certainly if we lived in a police state, it would be much easier to catch the terrorists. If we just would allow the government to listen to your phone conversations, read through your mail, look at all your email communications, search your home on a whim, and lock you up because what you write or think, then we would surely catch more terrorists and other bad guys. But is that what America is all about? Do you want to live under such a restrictive cloud? Is that the kind of country that we ask our young volunteer soldiers to fight and die for?
In Herbert Hoover’s winning campaign backing 1928, his slogan was “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.” Today’s slogan could well be “a government agent on every corner, a wiretap on every phone.” It is, after all, for our own security, right?
“Some things are unforgivable in a democracy. The Patriot Act should be at the top of the list. Nobody who has supported this wretched law should ever be allowed to brag of defending liberty again.”Former CIA Agent Susan Lindauer
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.