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We Have 8 Hours to Rescue the 4th Amendment

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This is it. We have less than 8 hours to get the attention of Congress and demand that they stand up for the restoration of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

Although the renewal of key provisions of the PATRIOT Act was defeated last week when it was brought up for an early vote, that happened primarily because House rules required that it pass by a two-thirds majority under those circumstances. That narrow defeat of the renewal was only a temporary victory, because the bill remained eligible for passage under the regular rules and with a simple majority vote, and that vote is scheduled for this evening at 6:30. It’s the only bill on the House docket and there will be only 1 hour for formal debate and no amendments.

This means that most of this day will be dedicated to giving you an opportunity to contact your Congressman and tell him that you like having privacy rights, don’t want the government monitoring your internet and phone conversations, and think that search warrants obtained through proper procedures are a good thing, not an inconvenience.

Three key sections of the PATRIOT Act are up for renewal. They provide for roving wiretaps without true search warrants, government access to private business records, searches of private property without notice and covert access to electronic data without any due process or oversight. Together they give the government unprecedented access to your private information without going through the Constitutionally mandated legal processes which are supposed to protect your privacy.

They were passed with a requirement that they be reviewed and renewed regularly because at the time the Congress realized that they were fundamental attacks on individual liberty and violations of our Constitutionally protected rights under the 4th Amendment. The mood at the time was one of fear and anger and some people felt that the threat of terrorism justified such extreme measures. Today you need to ask yourself whether this dreadful compromise of your rights on the basis of nothing but fear was justifiable.

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) expressed his concerns about renewing these PATRIOT Act provisions when he voted against them last week, writing:

“Like many Republicans and Democrats concerned with protecting civil liberties, I have serious reservations about the USA PATRIOT Act provisions up for renewal. The business records provision allows the government to order the production of ‘any tangible things’ — e-mails, phone logs, and even library records. Worse still, the company turning over the records to the government is forbidden from telling the records’ owner of the order. Likewise, the Act’s roving wiretap provision goes far beyond a similar provision in criminal law. It may allow the government continuously to monitor pay phones or public computers, even when a suspect is not using the devices. The breadth of the provisions raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns in my mind, and I cannot support them as currently written.”

The Bill of Rights exists for a reason and it has become clear that there is no threat to this nation from terrorism or other sources which justifies giving up the protections of the 4th Amendment. The only real target of this misguided legislation seems to be the citizens themselves, and that kind of government meddling and intrusion is unacceptable in a free society.

You only have hours to act. Please call your member of Congress, or your whole state delegation, using the convenient information on ContactingtheCongress.org. Tell them it’s been long enough and you want your rights back.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • leon

    we need to stay with what was strated 1776
    our sacrate comeplete constitution . no congress or government be alowed to change.
    I served innthe military to up hold the constitution. so shall the presidet of the usa,

  • Clavos

    Drug Lords have more money.

    But apparently not much more, if the DEA has a $2B payroll…

  • The DEA is a 1973 Nixon era agency that has requested more than $2B in salaries alone from our grateful nation in this year’s budget. Drug Lords have more money.

  • Kurt, you and Christopher are both correct. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

    Chris mentions the drug war, which has been utterly ineffectual despite vast expenditures of money and resources. Governments have learned from the drug wars and adjusted tactics accordingly, but so have the drug lords.

    Clearly Big Brother is nowhere near all-powerful yet. He may be able to watch and listen, but doing anything about what he discovers is another matter.

    A watching brief from our end is a good idea, nonetheless.

  • kurt brigliadora

    Would the immigrants be harrased for no reason, or is this a must have for the protection of our society;? In this world we might be better to be protected!

  • The Senate approved a three month extension of the PATRIOT Act, by an 86-12 vote, but the guy listening to your calls could have told you that.

    The chambers now face the pressure of reaching a compromise before Congress goes into recess next week.

    Kurt, you and Christopher are both correct. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.


  • kurt brigliadora

    Well put , Alan K. .. whats your take on the current inforcement of the “search and seizure” law? Im not sure , is this good for our democracy and how would the immagrants be treated?

  • kurt brigliadora

    I agree with you, somewhat, but in todays world how can you expect to have “privacy” ? But as far as the search and siezure issue is concern- we have to keep that protected …if that breaks down then the “law” becomes the criminal, ouch! did I miss something.

  • My lovely bride told me not to use the word “ignorance.” I should have listened to her.

  • The squawking of Chicken Littles just about sums up the tenor and the import of most BC political debates of late. It’s truly a fertile ground for the naturally curious, uninformed and challenged.

  • If someone poses a question at Blogcritics and only Tommy Mack is around to hear it, isn’t that a waste of time?

    Tommy Mack (#14), thanks for calling me ignorant. You truly have a gift for persuading curious but admittedly uninformed readers to your point of view.

    “No one asked you to concern yourself about the ‘right of the people’ or civil liberties at all,” you write. “The Constitution takes care of that, whether or not you know it.”

    But you see, sir, that was my whole point. The Constitution takes care of it, in this instance by providing for a Supreme Court of the United States, which passes final judgment on the constitutionality of a law such as the USA PATRIOT Act. But the Court can only act on the basis of litigation that originates at the trial level. And if no party can demonstrate actual harm done to them by an allegedly onerous law, then no one has standing to bring such a case to trial.

    You and Dave come across like a pair of Chicken Littles squawking about the constitutional sky falling. Get a grip, fellas.

  • It was meant as non sequitor with respect to the context. You still managed to contextualize it, an improper move to say the least (I don’t want to say indicative of lack of comprehension).

    As to your statement regarding the purported relationship between epistemology and physics, it’s totally off the mark. Epistemology neither ignores nor reaffirms physics. Being a separate field of inquiry, its aims are altogether different, and physics is but one realm of human knowledge which which it is concerned.

  • Actually, Roger, critical thinking is my bag. Epistemology tends to ignore physics.

    Incidentally, your question @10 is lovely non sequitur.

  • In terms of domestic threats to the USA, some of the worst are the drug “wars”, which are immensely damaging, pointless and expensive; the gangs which exploit the drug laws and generate huge amounts of cash to spend on weapons and spreading their influence and control throughout the country; the hugely increased security powers of the state, which are largely ineffective, an assault on liberty and hugely expensive; and the bitter logjam at the heart of the political system.

  • Sorry, Tommy Mack, but epistemology apparently is not your forte. Besides, the question raised was altogether divorced from the issue raised by Mr. Nalle – only an aside. By contextualizing it though, you completely missed the point.

  • The tree’s falling creates a disturbance whether anyone is around to hear it or not. Moreover, the use of such a postulation demonstrates a lack of understanding of the issue, if not ignorance.

    If you pardon the reference, the issue is clear cut. First, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,” which the Patriot Act allows, especially whether or not a person knows it. Second, “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,” which the Patriot Act authorizes.

    Of course many 18th Century English colonists, perhaps even a majority, asked the same question, “Why get worked up over things that only theoretically threaten liberty?” No one asked you to concern yourself about the “right of the people” or civil liberties at all. The Constitution takes care of that, whether or not you know it.

    The reason for concern is as the American Civil Liberties Union motto states, “Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself.”


  • There are no perceivers, Dreadful, to feel “the pain.” I wasn’t talking of sleepers.

  • Seeing as our country is facing unprecedented threats both at home and abroad…

    Which are what, exactly?

  • Depends what it falls on top of.

  • @9

    If there’s no one around to be aware that a tree is falling, what difference does it make?

  • If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

    Dave Nalle (#8), if a law goes unchallenged because those impacted don’t know of any harm done, maybe that’s because no harm has been done. Why get worked up over things that only theoretically threaten liberty?

  • Alan, some parts have been struck down by the SC, including elements of one of the sections which is up for renewal. But nothing gets struck down unless it is challenged in court, and some of these provisions have not been challenged yet because those impacted by them may not even know the harm which has been done yet.

    If the Senate tries to make the renewal permanent this will go back to the House for another vote, so the Senate will probably go for passing the House bill. However, Sen. Rand Paul is going to do everything possible to stop it.


  • Well, if the USA PATRIOT Act has not been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It must not be a very important issue.

  • Terrorists don’t use land lines.

  • Thankfully, sanity prevailed and the PATRIOT Act was extended this evening. Wether many here realize it or not, this was a strongly positive development for national security and stability in the United States. Seeing as our country is facing unprecedented threats both at home and abroad, the federal government has a constitutional obligation to protect and defend its citizenry to the very best of its abilities.

    If this means that some suspicious phone lines will be tapped or, heaven forbid, terrorists not be treated as petty thieves in the criminal justice system, then these are an extremely small prices to pay in the long run.

  • “While many writers are concerned with pontificating about Egypt, a subject vastly beyond their understanding, concern about their own liberty is ignored.”

    Words of a sage.

  • I haven’t been following this issue. Has the USA PATRIOT Act been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court? Isn’t that branch supposed to decide such questions of constitutionality?

  • While many writers are concerned with pontificating about Egypt, a subject vastly beyond their understanding, concern about their own liberty is ignored.

    The vote is in. By a margin of 65, the Patriot Act extension has been approved.
    The extension . now goes to the Senate. As the NY Times reports, “it is likely that the Senate will approve the House’s bill — putting off a larger debate over the provisions until later in the year.”

    Or so we hope.

    In the Senate, a bill proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would extend the provisions for three more years without new safeguards. Another bill by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would make the provisions I mentioned permanent. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) offers a bill that would add several safeguards, but also extends the expiring provisions in the Patriot Act through 2013.

    Let us keep our eye on the ball, people.

    Compromising our constitution affects us. Egypt now has no constitution. Its military accomplished that.

  • Dave’s piece is very important and asks the question, Where is the oversight on this issue? The answer is, There isn’t any.

    The Patriot Act is the post-9/11 law created during the Bush/Cheney administration that violates the 4th Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Its authorization is so broad that the government does not even have to specify the suspect’s name to get a warrant. It authorizes the following:

    1. Examination of library and bookstore records of suspects, along with hard drives, tax documents and gun records, without being required to show probable cause

    2. Roving wiretaps on a terror suspect without the government specifying the suspect’s name to get a warrant

    3. Surveillance of so-called “lone wolf” suspects, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US persons who are not affiliated with a foreign organization. Although it has never been used, the Congress seeks to renew it without debate.

    Additionally, National Security Letters (NSLs) permit the government to obtain the communication, financial and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior.

    The ACLU makes it easy for you to contact your congressional representative. The ACLU also offers a detailed look at how congress and the public “have yet to receive real information about how these [Patriot Act] powerful tools are being used to collect information on Americans.”

    Reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person’s privacy is suspended under the Patriot Act. It needs to expire.

    Tommy Mack