Friday, January 30, 2015

Paul: Congress shouldn't reauthorize PATRIOT Act

Paul: Congress shouldn't reauthorize PATRIOT Act

It will not shock readers to hear that quite often, legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name.

The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States. but was going nowhere. The 9-11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.

At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the legislation. On the Republican side there were only three “no” votes: former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, and myself.

The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents Bush and Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the Fourth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know how the National Security Agency viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of the American people during the PATRIOT Act period.