As most of you may know, the so-called “Patriot” Act was recently extended. It was originally thought that the act would pass without opposition, but the Patriot Act failed the House vote originally by eight votes. It was later passed once it was put up for a second vote where only a majority was needed instead of two thirds. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a three month extension of the “Patriot” Act by a 86 to 12 vote. Some Senate members are attempting to pass the act permanently.
Much of the opposition in the Senate was led by Senator Rand Paul. “Now we have essentially government agents, akin to soldiers, writing warrants; it’s ripe for abuse,” said Senator Paul. The senator has also posted a press release explaining why he opposes the Act and encouraging his fellow congressmen to do the same.
In his letter, Rand Paul cites American revolutionist James Otis, who argued against general warrants and writs of assistance. During his time, they were often used without judicial approval by British soldiers and included no restrictions or description of what or where was to be searched or seized. He described these warrants as “the worst instrument[s] of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever w[ere] found in an English law book.” His objected was based on his belief that these warrants “placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.” Rand Paul analogously described his resistance to the “Patriot” Act as similar to Otis’s opposition to the writs of assistance.
Ron Paul also led the opposition in the House; unfortunately, his words fell on deaf ears. You can hear his address to the House of “Representatives” here.
According to Rand Paul in the video above, the “Patriot” Act has been used 200,000 times in the last ten years. Furthermore, so-called “suspicious bank accounts” were reported 2,000,000 times, from banks to the FBI. These bank records also merit some attention; most of these 2,000,000 bank records were from American citizens! This is an enormous infringement on privacy.
The Provisions that were set to expire and were voted upon are perhaps the worst parts of the “Patriot” Act, and addressed roving wiretapping, governmental seizures, and the “lone wolf provision.” The roving wiretapping allows law enforcement officials to use surveillance without identifying the individual who is going to be wiretapped or at what location. One section allows governmental seizures of “any tangible thing.” The “lone wolf” provision allows electronic monitoring of a person without proof that the suspect is an foreign agent or terrorist.
It should be clear that the so-called “Patriot” Act is an enormous infringement to our 4th amendment right to privacy, ignores the fact that only judges can issue warrants. However, for those of you who may be skeptical, here is the text of the Fourth Amendment:
“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.”
Think about it. Under the “Patriot” Act, law enforcement can participate in searches and seizures without a Judge’s approval. Now all it takes is an FBI letter, and their decision can be based on arbitrary terms; they can essentially search, seizure, or surveille anything they want. Anyone – law-abiding American citizens included – can be victims of the “Patriot” Act. 200,000 American’s already have. You no longer have a right to privacy, America.
The “Patriot Act” is anything but patriotic. We’re not drifting towards a police state, we are already there.