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Posts Tagged ‘Patriot Act News’

13th February 2011

This blogger writes this blog post with an eye on the news circulating from the United States Congress. As a United States Citizen and as a Citizen of the State of Kansas this blogger would ask the United States Government: think what you are asking America to stomach this February 2011, and then understand our frustration at your seeming unwillingness to properly discuss the issues that impact Americans’ lives most

The question of the so-called Patriot Act. You ask us to support the extension of a bill that, to quote Mr. Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune on the website

The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was Section 215, the so-called library records provision that gives the FBI court-approved access to “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation.

The third deals with the “lone-wolf” provision of a 2004 anti-terror law that permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. people not known to be affiliated with a specific terrorist organization.

America, the land of the Free and the home of the Brave allows access to “any tangible thing” relevant to a “terrorism investigation” and calls this compliance with the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution? Furthermore, so-called “roving” wiretaps, a term which could, and possibly should, be interpreted incredibly broadly; may allow government access to a huge range of private personal correspondence at little government effort. The extreme nature of the Patriot Act’s provisions beg the question: why is the issue of the American people being further subjected to the provisions of this law being seemingly fast tracked? Furthermore, why is this legislation being fast tracked in light of recent findings that the FBI may systematically have violated many Americans 4th amendment rights on a regular basis?

As a Citizen of the State of Kansas and as an American Citizen Resident Abroad I must take exception with the proposed extension of the so-called “lone wolf” surveillance noted above. Is this what we want to show our allies (and, dare I say, our enemies) at a time we need their goodwill the most? Are we going to show that we continue to endorse this sort of behavior on the part of our government as it pertains to “non-U.S.” people? Then if it is such a good idea, why not debate the matter? Why attempt to “fast track” this legislation through? Why is there never enough time to discuss these issues? In a recent posting on the website, the poster, Donny Shaw noted how seemingly obsessed the US House of Representatives seems to have recently become with some of the minutia of Congressional business while trying to quickly pass the Patriot Act extension brooking little discussion:

On Wednesday the Rules Committee got together for 10 minutes to decide that extending the three most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act would be allowed 1 hour of debate on the floor. The day before that they met for more than an hour and decided to give 9.5 hours of debate to …wait for it… a non-binding resolution directing committees to hold hearings on regulations that businesses don’t like.

Distinguished Gentlemen and Gentlewomen who make up our legislative branch of government, can you see from the above citation how the common American might view your handling of this Patriot Act extension matter as rather, well, perfunctory? I would hope that you do not take this the wrong way, but as a law abiding tax paying Citizen I want some oversight! I want some debate! I want someone to stand up and take notice of the giant wall of lies that has been built up around the Patriot Act and the way in which it is utilized. The 4th Amendment of the Constitution is not just some ordinary document that is tread upon with impunity. The Constitution is woven into the inherent fabric of the American being. The 4th Amendment of the Constitution contains the reference to the preexisting and inalienable right of the People of the United States to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Yes, a RIGHT! Citizens have them. States have them, human beings have them!

When one attempts to restrict or infringe upon something that is inherent to the being of a natural person or a body politic then that person or body politic cries out. This outcry occurs in much the same way as the human body cries out in pain as someone or something tries to harm it. In fact, to capture the zeitgeist of President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that type of cry from the body politic comes with the “fierce urgency of now!” The body politic is crying out with a fierce urgency and it is crying for an end to the Patriot Act.

112th United States Congress, this blogger asks you to ponder this: personal freedom is not a partisan issue. To quote Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” And to drive home the point further this blogger must quote Republican President Ronald Reagan when he stood at the Eastern outpost of the Free World and demanded at the Brandenburg Gate that the Soviet Union “Tear Down This Wall!” This blogger was a toddler when that event unfolded, but it may be the defining moment of a generation as the shackles of tyranny were loosed and the mighty Titans known as Liberty and Freedom were once again free to take their rightful place in Central and Eastern Europe. These notions have flourished in these locations, but the tree from whence this fruit has sprung is sickly as of late. That is why this blogger urges Congress to tear down this law! Show the world that we are America, land of the free!

This blogger was unhappy to watch a recent YouTube interview in which it was noted by Representative Ron Paul, a staunch opponent of the so-called “Patriot Act,” that the United States Congress was apparently wanting to pass the “Patriot Act” extension “as quietly as possible”. Why does this legislation need to be passed as quietly as possible? Is it because it might be MASSIVELY UNPOPULAR! No one really cares about polls and focus groups when it comes to matters of freedom from government surveillance. To put it simply: people do not like the Patriot Act. In fact, it would appear that notwithstanding little floor time devoted to discussion on the matter of the possible extension, there appears to be a very broad cross-section of the American body politic that does not favor extending the restrictions imposed by the Patriot Act. Representative Dennis Kucinich has recently made his feelings on the matter heard when he noted that it would “behoove the White House to align itself with the Constitution.” Representative Kucinich has also praised the Tea Party movement, or perhaps specifically the core of the Tea Party Movement, for adhering to the Constitution in voting to not extend the any provisions of the so-called Patriot Act. Perhaps the same bi-partisan accolades could be extended to the Republicans? Although this would seem unlikely as the so-called “Mainstream” Section of the Grand Old Party seems to hope for quick passage for the extension of the restriction of Americans’ right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. That said, some “Mainstream” Republicans broke away and voted against the extension. Such activity should be encouraged and hopefully others from the GOP will see “the light” and follow suit.

The Patriot Act, in many ways, is a symbol of everything that is going wrong within the American System. The negative reverberating clang from the Patriot Act can be felt when the American people have their private parts groped prior to boarding virtually any conveyance for air travel. That same reverberation can be felt when body scanners bombard American travelers with questionably healthy levels of radiation. The reverberation can be felt when the free flow of ideas is chilled by legislation designed to stifle the inherent rights guaranteed in the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Constitution is not a “talking point” it is not a “sound bite” it is not a “meme”. It is the Supreme Law of The United States of America and its provisions are to be guarded zealously. The efforts and votes of the triumvirate of the Tea Party Caucus should not be overlooked in this posting. To quote directly from the Washington Post:

The Republicans who voted no Tuesday night included Roscoe G. Bartlett (Md.), Paul Broun (Ga.) and Walter B. Jones (N.C.), all of whom were original members of the House Tea Party Caucus when it was founded last summer.

The administration of this blog highly recommends interested parties click on the link above to read the full posting by the Washington Post and receive a more precise breakdown of the voting on this issue. From all of the evidence presented above, it is clear that the movement to let the Patriot Act expire has been given a boost by the incoming Congress. To the Federal legislators who voted for the Patriot Act extension, bear this in mind; the voters are watching this issue carefully. As a legislator, one could look at this as an opportunity. This blogger must ask any legislators reading this to imagine Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Peter Venkman, in the original Ghostbusters movie when reading the following line: if you, the US Congress vote against this measure, then YOU, the legislators, could save the rights of millions of registered voters!

To those Federal legislators debating which way to vote on this issue, ponder this: you do not need to “enhance your credibility” when you vote in favor of the United States Constitution. There need be no “spin”. You just tell the people something like this: “Yeah, the Patriot Act, it violates our rights, I voted against it, next question.” An easy one, isn’t that a Win-Win? In the era of politics 2.0 the electorate is acutely aware of the activities of our elected representatives and we expect our interests to be taken into consideration when voting on matters that pertain to our civil and Constitutional rights.

To the legislators who voted against the Patriot Act, thank you, your courage will not be forgotten. To those who continue to vote for this legislation please be advised: 2012 is coming and electorate 2.0 has a surprisingly longer memory than you might think.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For related information please see: Patriot Act Extension.

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6th February 2011

Those who read this blog frequently may have noticed that the administration has been keeping track of the proposed extension to the so-called “Patriot Act.” It appears that there are efforts being made on Capitol Hill to streamline the passage of a bill which would extend this important Act. To quote directly from a recent article on a Russian News Source for global news:

Now that the major provisions of the Act are about to expire, the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee is in a real hurry to rubberstamp the extension of the Act rather than discuss and debate the far-reaching measures.

As the US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California put it “They expire in three weeks and I think there’s no time really to go into the changes.”

Let’s take a look at the above quotation for a moment. The Senator would appear to be saying that the bill should be passed “as is” without significant discussion due to the fact that there is “no time” for any discussion. Doesn’t this conflict with the fact that within the same quotation the Senator notes that there are three weeks left before the Patriot Act expires? How then is there “no time” to discuss the bill, when there are in fact approximately 3 weeks left to discuss the bill? This blog posting was not written to discuss the details of the Patriot Act, but instead to discuss the issue of what appears to be legislative shirking. In recent history there have been several examples of a disturbing trend within the Federal Legislature. Namely, the notion that bills coming before said legislature which have incredible ramifications for the American people and the Institutions that make up the American way of life should be “passed first and discussed later”. delves into this issue further:

There was ‘no time’ either for real debate back in 2001, when the Patriot Act was adopted weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

According to Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the lawmakers had not even read what they were passing.

“What happened once the Patriot Act was passed, the Fourth Amendment right – to be protected from unreasonable searching was just thrown out.”

To provide clarity to the reader, Congressman Kucinich is referring to the Constitutional Rights guaranteed under the 4th amendment to the United States Constitution which, to quote from Wikipedia, states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. continues:

The Congressman was one of the very few who openly opposed the Act.

“We have a challenge to the essence of democracy with the very existence of the Patriot Act,” Denis Kucinich warns. “And of course its name – the Patriot Act – who would want to oppose the Patriot Act, because it makes it sound as though you’re a patriot if you are for it. But actually the idea of tying patriotism to the destruction of cherished constitutional privileges needs in itself to be challenged.”

This blogger does not point this out in an effort to criticize Mr. Kucinich, but strictly speaking pursuant to the plain language of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as quoted above, the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Those reading this posting who would accuse this blogger of being overly interested in semantics should note that there is a substantial distinction between rights and privileges in jurisprudence. As usual, Wikipedia turns out to have the most concise synopsis of the differences between rights and privileges in layman’s terms. To quote directly from Wikipedia’s entry on the issue of rights vs. privileges:

A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. It can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth.

The above digression is not intended to be a jab against Mr. Kucinich as his use of the term privilege was likely unintentional. Instead, this digression was an attempt to elucidate the importance of the distinction between rights and privileges.

To get back to the issue of the Federal Legislature’s apparent reluctance to discuss the Patriot Act extension on the basis of “time constrains” the question must be posed: what is the United States Senate’s job if it is not to discuss pending legislation? According to the website, United States Senators are paid 174,000 USD per annum. To quote another page from

Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. They are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final salary.

The compensation of United States Senators is not really the crux of this posting, but the above cited figures are noted in an effort to show that US Senators are not uncompensated for their service to the United States of America. This begs the question: what are they compensated for? The short answer: to legislate, which includes discussing pending legislation or proposed extensions to previously enacted legislation! In many ways, the United States Senate was specifically designed to be a deliberative body which would slowly and intelligently scrutinize proposed legislation, or to quote US Senator John Kyl on

George Washington likened the House to hot tea, and the Senate was the “saucer” that cooled it.

Clearly, the Senate’s raison d’etre is to do exactly the opposite of what Senator Feinstein has suggested. Instead of acting as a “rubber stamp” the Senate is to be the great “scrutinizer” of proposed legislation. It should be noted that this is not the first instance in recent American history that expedience has been cited as a valid reason for railroading through legislation with little or no scrutiny. To cite just one example: the bailout legislation. To quote Representative Brad Sherman from California when discussing said legislation on the House floor:

The only way they can pass this bill is by creating and sustaining a panic atmosphere. That atmosphere is not justified. Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday, that the sky would fall, the Market would drop two or three thousand points the first day-another couple thousand the second day-and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no. That’s what I call fearmongering. Unjustified. Proven wrong. We’ve got a week, we’ve got two weeks to write a good bill. The only way to pass a bad bill: keep the panic pressure on.

Clearly, Representative Sherman was not a supporter of the “legislate first, ask questions later” philosophy. That said, the financial legislation that resulted in the banking bailouts would appear to have been, at least partially, the result of high pressure tactics utilized by those hoping to see that legislation’s passage. What was the result of passing such important legislation without careful analysis? Significant amounts of money allocated as a result of the bailouts has not been accounted for and many Americans have noted their disapproval of the way in which public funds were allocated. Meanwhile, the economy continues to be turbulent. Prior to the passage of the bailout bill, expediency was one of the major themes trumpeted by those in support of the legislation’s passage. In the aftermath of the bill’s passage there are many who wonder if it might not have been better to have taken a more deliberate approach toward that legislation.

Federal legislators’ seeming lack of enthusiasm about discussing the extension of the Patriot Act comes on the heels of recent announcements that Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation appear to have violated the civil rights of a substantial number of Americans during the last decade. To quote directly from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s official website

EFF has uncovered widespread violations stemming from FBI intelligence investigations from 2001 – 2008. In a report released today, EFF documents alarming trends in the Bureau’s intelligence investigation practices, suggesting that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed.

The Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. There are some who may infer that the passage of the Patriot Act is linked to the apparent violations which have been discovered by Those interested in the the full story on the apparent violations allegedly perpetrated by the FBI are encouraged to check out the full story on

Readers should note that this blogger believes that there is room for debate on any issue which is being proposed for passage by the US Congress and that all Americans are entitled to their opinion regarding the Patriot Act, or any other law for that matter. However, failure to properly vet legislation prior to passage by the US House and Senate should be alarming to anyone no matter what the subject matter of the proposed legislation may be. The following is quoted from a recent article posted on the Voices section of the official website of the Washington Post,

The Sensenbrenner bill [The House's version of the proposed Patriot Act Extension Bill] is expected to easily pass the Republican-led House next week. The measure would then go on to the Senate, which will be in recess the latter part of next week. The Senate would next be able to take up the bill when it comes back during the week of Feb. 14.

Both chambers are in recess during the week of Feb. 21 for the President’s Day holiday, and by the day they come back — Feb. 28 — the provisions will have already expired.

That means that if the Senate doesn’t act on the House-passed legislation during the week of Feb. 14, the provisions would either expire or both chambers might be forced to call a pro-forma session during their President’s Day recess.

Again, the implication of this quote would seem to suggest that there is not a great deal of time to pass this legislation. In reality, at the time of this writing there are 22 days left before the expiration of the Patriot Act. If the House or Senate is required to come out of recess or forgo a vacation in order to facilitate debate or discussion on a bill that has a dramatic impact upon the rights of US Citizens wouldn’t that be a good thing? After all, isn’t that what legislators are paid to do? Again, the substance of the Patriot Act is not the main point of this article. Instead, this post is written in an attempt to point out the apparently recent habit of the US legislature to enact important legislation with little or no discussion or debate in the name of expedience.

It should be noted that President Barack Obama in conjunction with the previous Congress authorized a previous extension to the Patriot Act in February of 2010. To quote directly from the website

Yesterday, to top it off, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions without any reform to them. This passage was made via voice vote, a move for secrecy so that no one could track the vote of a specific senator on the issue. The vote to make American citizens’ private lives transparent to the U.S. Government was made in a way to make American senators’ votes opaque to U.S. citizens.

The 2008 promise by Democrats to reform warrantless wiretapping, intrusive surveillance, restore constitutional protections, reject national security letters and reform the Patriot Act has not simply been forgotten. The promise has been broken.

Again, to reiterate, any piece of legislation that would allow the government to gain access to “any tangible thing” during an investigation is, by virtually anyone’s estimation, an important piece of legislation. Therefore, in extending such legislation shouldn’t there at least be discussion? One would think.

For related information please see: Patriot Act Extension.

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