End the PATRIOT Act

Members of Congress are once again proving just how much they despise American liberty. This week, both the Senate and the House with make critical votes on whether to extend certain freedom squelching provisions of the PATRIOT Act before its expiration date this Friday.

Last week, it was reported that Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struck a so-called “backroom” deal that would essentially keep the PATRIOT Act alive for another four years. Despite failing to secure a long term renewal of the act earlier this year, instead only passing a brief 90 day extension, Congressional lawmakers seem determined to stay clear of the limited government mandate that so many Americans sought during last years’ elections.

The main provisions of the PATRIOT Act that are set to expire on May 27 , 2011 include some of the worst attacks on the fourth amendment in US history. As Bruce Fein made clear in his statement before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Campaign for Liberty during a May 11 hearing on the PATRIOT Act:

Section 206 of the Patriot Act authorizing roving wiretaps to collect foreign intelligence; section 215 authorizing orders to seize any “tangible thing” like books or computer hard drives to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; section 505 authorizing National Security Letters to seize customer records of financial institutions, credit bureaus, and telecommunications providers by the government’s assertion of relevance to preventing international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; and, section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 authorizing surveillance against hypothetical “lone wolf” international terrorists are all abusive of citizen liberty because they encroach on the right to be left alone without probable cause to believe the target is implicated in crime.

And it’s this goal to continue these abuses of liberty that Congressional leaders don’t want to bear the scrutiny of a truly meaningful and public debate. Instead, our “protectors” in Congress would much rather rush a decision on the issue and move on to their next objective in limiting our freedoms.

Since its inception a decade ago, it has been clear that the PATRIOT Act wasn’t designed for terrorists; it was tailored made to restrict the American people. The message of Benjamin Franklin’s often repeated quote should serve as a strict reminder that when you exchange liberty for security, the loss of both will be inevitable. For the past decade, the PATRIOT Act has attacked the Bill of Rights and enabled the rise of a vast domestic surveillance state. If Congress allows the PATRIOT Act to remain in effect, it will provide further proof that the Constitution and the rights and liberties it protects mean nothing to the lawmakers in D.C.

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