FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Threat to Liberty

by Rep. RON PAUL

The USA PATRIOT Act and Terrorism Prevention Act (HR 3199) in no way brings the PATRIOT Act into compliance with the Constitution or allays concerns that the powers granted to the government in the act will be used to abuse the rights of the people. Much of the discussion surrounding this bill has revolved around the failure of the bill to extend the sunset clauses.

However, simply sunsetting troublesome provisions does not settle the debates around the PATRIOT Act. If the PATRIOT Act is constitutional and needed, as its proponents swear, why include sunset provisions at all? If it is unconstitutional and pernicious, why not abolish it immediately?

The sunset clauses do perform one useful service in that they force Congress to regularly re-examine the PATRIOT Act. As the people’s representatives, it is our responsibility to keep a close eye on the executive branch to ensure it does not abuse its power. Even if the claims of HR 3199’s supporters that there have been no abuses of PATRIOT Act powers under this administration are true, that does not mean that future administrations will not abuse these powers.

HR 3199 continues to violate the constitution by allowing searches and seizures of American citizens and their property without a warrant issued by an independent court upon a finding of probable cause. The drafters of the Bill of Rights considered this essential protection against an overreaching government. For example, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, popularly known as the library provision, allows Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts, whose standards hardly meet the constitutional requirements of the Fourth Amendment, to issue warrants for individual records, including medical and library records. HR 3199 does reform this provision by clarifying that it can be used to acquire the records of an American citizen only during terrorist investigations. However, this marginal change fails to bring the section up to the constitutional standard of probable cause.

Requiring a showing of probable cause before a warrant may be issued will in no way hamper terrorist investigations. For one thing, federal authorities still would have numerous tools available to investigate and monitor the activities of non-citizens suspected of terrorism. Second, restoring the Fourth Amendment protections would in no way interfere with the provisions of the PATRIOT Act removing the firewalls that prevented the government’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies from sharing information.

The probable cause requirements will not delay a terrorist investigation. Preparations can be made for the issuance of a warrant in the event of an emergency, and allowances can be made for cases where law enforcement does not have time to obtain a warrant. In fact, a requirement that law enforcement demonstrate probable cause may help law enforcement focus their efforts on true threats, thus avoiding the problem of information overload that is handicapping the government’s efforts to identify sources of terrorist financing.

The requirement that law enforcement demonstrate probable cause before a judge preserves the Founders’ system of checks and balances that protects against one branch gathering too much power. The Founders recognized that one of the chief dangers to liberty was the concentration of power in a few hands, which is why they carefully divided power among the three branches. I would remind those of my colleagues who claim that we must set aside the constitutional requirements during war that the founders were especially concerned about the consolidation of power during times of war and national emergences. My colleagues should also keep in mind that PATRIOT Act powers have already been used in non-terrorism related cases, most notably in a bribery investigation in Nevada.

HR 3199 does take some positive steps toward restoring respect for constitutional liberties and checks and balances that the original PATRIOT Act stripped away. However, it still leaves in place large chunks of legislation that threaten individual liberty by giving law enforcement power to snoop into American citizens’ lives without adequate oversight. This power is unnecessary to effectively fight terrorism.

Ron Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail