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The UNPATRIOT Act: Republicans Fight over what is Unconstitutional… Again

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Published on: May 27, 2015

Noted mouthpiece for the establishment Republicans, Bill Kristol, recently proclaimed, “Rand Paul has now decided he wants to be a liberal Democrat” because of Senator Paul’s opposition to the PATRIOT Act. However, Rand Paul‘s Heritage score is proof positive that he stands far to the right of Bill Kristol and the other neocons currently attacking Senator Paul.

Over the weekend, as the Senate failed to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, many Republicans came out to either defend or attack the PATRIOT Act – particularly the parts of the Act which seemingly allow the NSA carte blanche ability to spy on innocent American citizens which is in direct violation of the 4th Amendment.

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Below we’ll reproduce some of those interviews and statements. First, the defense of the PATRIOT Act, which if you can’t already tell… I find to be a dubious argument. We’ll start with the RINO philosopher Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard. Kristol argues that Rand Paul has become a liberal Democrat on this issue… even after S.E. Cupp (another Republican) points out that many Republicans don’t like the PATRIOT Act.

But Keith doesn’t stand with Rand, that’s not fair to Keith, Rand stands with Keith.

I mean that seriously. They had these positions first. Rand Paul has now decided he wants to be a liberal Democrat undercut necessary intelligence collection, weaken the police officers and our intelligence services. And Rand Paul thinks that’s going to sell in a Republican primary. I think he’s deeply misguided about that. But I guess he sincerely believes it. And he’s welcome to make the case. But I…

Let’s follow up on Mr. Kristol’s comments by turning to the establishment’s two favorite candidates – Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Chris Christie (R-NJ). Bush was in New Hampshire this past week when he was asked about the PATRIOT Act debate and he argued that the PATRIOT Act was in no way Unconstitutional.

I think he’s wrong in saying that this is unconstitutional or saying that people’s freedoms have been violated by the Patriot Act,” potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush told NH1 News, a news serviced based in New Hampshire, in Concord today.

“I think we need to reauthorize the Patriot Act, and put aside who’s speaking where. The simple fact is that it’s been an effective tool to keep us free and to keep us from being attacked by Islamic terrorists. That’s the main focus,” Bush also said.

“If it could be updated, modified, fine. But it needs to be reauthorized,” Bush added.

Governor Chris Christie also defended the PATRIOT Act while flippantly handling the fact that the government is spying on the American people when he recently told a group (also in New Hampshire) this:

“There are going to be some who are going to come before you and are going to say, ‘Oh, no, no, no. This is not what the Founders intended.’ The Founders made sure that the first obligation of the American government was to protect the lives of the American people, and we can do this in a way that’s smart and cost-effective and protects civil liberties. But you know, you can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”

So folks, that is the establishment side of the debate. The Republican leadership desperately wants to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act in its entirety, while the libertarian (or Constitutional) wing of the party wants to strip the NSA (and other agencies) of the power to spy on Americans without a specific warrant. The conservatives are caught in the middle with some influential leaders (like Mike Lee) arguing that the PATRIOT Act should be reauthorized but with changes to stop the NSA spying.

In fact, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) shot a broadside at PATRIOT Act defenders over the weekend when he called out Governor Chris Christie for his support of NSA spying.

CNN QUESTION: As you well know, Senator, there are many in your party that don’t agree with you. Chris Christie, for example, said, “You can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.” 

Sen. John McCain said this earlier on New Day on CNN: “If we had the means we have today, we may have been able to prevent 9/11, and the fact is that what Senator Paul did yesterday in all due respect is delay what we are going to do for 11 hours while he was on the floor of the Senate… to do away with the entire program that is being conducted by the NSA would put the security of this nation at risk.”

So I’ll ask you point blank, Are you putting American lives in danger by fighting these provisions?

SEN. MIKE LEE: Absolutely not, let me address both of those statements. Senator McCain’s statement first.

He is responding there to what one of my colleagues who wants to see the USA-PATRIOT Act expire altogether. I am not one of those people and I am not saying we ought to let it expire. I am saying there is a middle ground and the USA-FREEDOM Act accomplishes.

The statement from Christie, I view that as tantamount to political pornography. I think Mr. Christie should be ashamed of himself for saying we have to choose between the Fourth Amendment and respecting the privacy of the American people on one hand or a coffin on the other, and if Mr. Christie wants to play a part in the national discussion regarding the private security, he should choose his words more carefully…

I would ask Mr. Christie how many acts of terrorism have been thwarted simply because the NSA is collecting telephone data on what your grandma calls or receives? How many acts of terrorism has this thwarted? I think it’s difficult to make the case this is necessary, and it’s very easy to make the case that this program of collecting everybody’s calling data is incompatible at least with the spirit of the fourth amendment, if not the letter…

Fox News judicial analyst and constitutional scholar Judge Andrew Napolitano further argues that Jeb Bush is simply dead wrong and that the PATRIOT Act is indeed “Unconstitutional”! Judge Napolitano gives the clearest reasoning that the PATRIOT Act should not be reauthorized, and I would go further – if you are a conservative who calls himself a constitutionalist… you simply cannot support the PATRIOT Act as it stands. Listen to the Judge and you’ll see what I mean.

I do say that Senator Paul is the only person who announced for president who is faithful to the Constitution. I think he demonstrated that just moments to go. Yesterday, in 11 hours of speaking on the floor of the Senate. Which you just so nicely summarized for us. The Fourth Amendment absolutely prohibits general warrants. A general warrant is a piece of paper in which a court says admit the bearer to listen to whatever he wants, to go wherever he wants to go and to seize whatever he finds. 

Because the Fourth Amendment says search warrants can only come about when the government has probable cause to believe that someone is committing a crime and then the warrant, Senator Paul is correct, must specifically describe the person or place to be seized or the thing to be searched. And these general warrants that the secret FISA court gives out do not do that. 

Instead, they say you may seize all the phone calls in an area code, in a zip code, or from a particular telecom like Verizon. That is more information than the NSA can possibly go through. And it is a profound violation of the Fourth Amendment and, therefore, the civil liberties of everyone whose records have been seized…

When General Keith Alexander, who ran the NSA for four years, was asked how many plots your spying on all people, all the time, has stopped and asked under oath, he said, 53. The next day he amended that to 3. When asked to explain his reduction from 53 to 3 or describe the 3, he declined to answer.

The problem with this, Andrea, is not only that it violates our freedom by invading the privacy. It doesn’t work. It’s far too much information for the NSA to sift through. The framers were right when they said if you present some evidence to a court first you already have an idea who the bad guy is. So if they follow the constitution, they’ll find more bad guys and find them sooner than if they gather all information from everybody all the time.

Finally, Senator Rand Paul himself responds to his critics and explains what his problems with the PATRIOT Act are.

 I think that kind of disregard for the Bill of Rights — he may think that is popular, and it might be popular inside the Beltway, but outside the Beltway people do still care about the Bill of Rights.

One of the things that happens that does affect peoples’ civil liberties under the PATRIOT Act is that 99% of the time, one of the sections is not being used for terrorists, but actually being used for domestic crimes.

They promised when it passed that, oh we need to lower the standards, we’re going to get rid of the Constitution, we can’t have constitutional protections for terrorists.

Some of that I can expect, but the warning was that eventually this would be used against the American people for other possible crimes.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, over 99% of the time is being used for domestic crimes. We gave up on the Constitution without even really understanding what we were doing. I’m just trying to get it back.

What do you think, dear reader? Do you stand with Rand? Or do you believe that the NSA can be trusted with the bulk collection of our digital data? Would you be willing to sacrifice some of your 4th Amendment freedom for the hope of being safer?


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