civil liberties

Mike Lee: Patriot Act and the Fourth Amendment

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Harry Reid tries to shut down PATRIOT Act reforms

There were some shenanigans on the Senate floor yesterday as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tabled the PATRIOT Act, his motion passed by a vote of 74 to 13, in an attempt to prevent Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from offering needed reforms to the law:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeking to circumvent Paul’s opposition, used parliamentary tactics Tuesday evening in an effort to save time and pass the extension before some of the law’s provisions expire Friday. But it remains unclear whether the Nevada Democrat will be successful.
[…]
Paul and Reid could not reach an agreement on amendments Tuesday, leading the freshman Republican to delay a vote on a key procedural motion, which in turn threatened to push the vote on the reauthorization beyond the expiration deadline. Paul spent all day on the Senate floor to prevent a unanimous consent agreement from being reached to move up the procedural vote and the vote on final passage.

In response, Reid maneuvered to skip a procedural step and shorten the debate time until the final vote. However, Paul might still be able to delay passage until after the PATRIOT Act provisions expire by forcing the Senate to run out the clock on debate time.

Paul accused Reid of running “through procedural hoops” and failing to honor a commitment to allowing time for amendments to the extension.

“Sen. Reid denied the Senate the opportunity to debate the constitutionality of its provisions,” Paul said in a statement Tuesday. “Today’s events further underscore the U.S. government’s lack of transparency and accountability to the American people.”

Senate moves forward on PATRIOT Act extension

The Senate voted overwhelming yesterday to limit debate on a measure that would extend the PATRIOT Act for another four years:

The Senate voted Monday to take up legislation extending for four years key provisions of the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law passed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The vote was 74 to 8, and signals the measure should easily pass later this week, although opponents indicted they may drag out the process.

Passage in the House also is expected before the Memorial Day recess but it could be tougher in that chamber as lawmakers on the right and left, who oppose the extensions for a variety of reasons, are expected to team up against it. Some members of Congress, for example, have said they are concerned about the law’s impact on civil liberties while others support the law but think it should be made permanent.

How did you Senator vote? Find out here. It looks like a final vote will come at some point on Wednesday.

There are some efforts being pushed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) that would end National Security Letters, part of the PATRIOT Act that forces ISPs and financial institutions to turn over customer records without a warrant, and force the Department of Justice to audit the issuances of these letters.

PATRIOT Act renewal coming up for a vote

In case you haven’t heard, the shredding of the Bill of Rights will continue as leaders from both parties have agreed to extend the so-called PATRIOT Act for another four years:

Top congressional leaders agreed Thursday to a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act, the controversial law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.

The deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner calls for a vote before May 27, when parts of the current act expire. The idea is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.

Support for the extension was unclear. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wanted tighter restrictions on the government’s power and may seek to amend it. In the House, members of the freshman class elected on promises of making government smaller were skeptical.
[…]
The legislation would extend three expiring provisions until June 1, 2015, officials said.

The provisions at issue allow the government to use roving wiretaps on multiple electronic devices and across multiple carriers and get court-approved access to business records relevant to terrorist investigations. The third, a “lone wolf” provision that was part of a 2004 law, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. individuals without having to show a connection between the target and a specific terrorist group.

Gun owners need to step up

I’m a firm supporter of the Second Amendment.  I don’t think anyone who has read my work previously has a lot of doubt about that.  I’m not one of those luke warm supporters either, but a died in the the wool 2A kind of guy.  You won’t hear me touting “sporting purposes” as a reason to keep some guns legal, but instead hear me say “the Second Amendment doesn’t care what kind of gun it is”.  However, we gun rights supporters have an image problem that we need to work harder to fix.

With some folks, we will never change the perception of gun rights advocates as a bunch of hicks.  Some gun control advocates are so biased that they refuse to see any possible scenario where a gun rights person can actually be intelligent.  However, those die hard folks are fairly few and far between.

There is a segment of the population, a fairly sizable one at that, that believes gun rights advocates support people who are irresponsible about storing their firearms.  They cite discussions that invariably spring up after an incident where a child gets his or her hands on a gun and someone gets hurt.  Because gun rights advocates step up and support the right to bear arms, it gets interpreted as support for idiots leaving guns laying around for kids to play with.

This has come to the forefront down in Florida where they are considering a law that will prevent doctors from asking about firearms in the home.  Frankly, if my doctor asks if we have guns in the home, my response is that it’s none of his damn business.  I don’t support such a law because in infringes on the doctor’s right to ask questions.  I also don’t believe it’s a doctor’s place to know anything about what I own or don’t own.

However, at ThinkProgress, a progressive blog, I read this comment:

So much for the Constitution: Republicans push PATRIOT Act extension and indefinite detention of American citizens

Those Republicans in the House that want to restore the Constitution are seeking a six-year extension of the USA PATRIOT Act, one of the most egregious pieces of legislation to pass Congress in the last few decades:

House Republicans last week introduced a bill that would extend expiring Patriot Act surveillance authorities for six years, until the end of 2017.

The bill would allow intelligence agencies to continue conducting three types of activities: roving surveillance, the collection of business documents and other tangible materials, and surveillance of “lone wolf” operators, who are not acting against the U.S. as part of an established terrorist group.

The bill is expected to move in the next few weeks because the three surveillance authorities expire May 27. Congress in February extended the three authorities for a short time in order to allow for congressional hearings on the Patriot Act.

The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hosted a hearing titled, “The Patriot Act: Dispelling the Myths,” where Republicans defended this abuse of the Constitution. Bruce Fein, a conservative legal scholar, was among those that testified yesterday. Here is a video he did for Campaign for Liberty prior to the hearing:

Cato Institute: After bin Laden

The folks at the Cato Institute have put together a good video with featuring some of their scholars - Jim Harper, Malou Innocent, Christopher Preble and David Rittgers - discussing what the death of Osama bin Laden means to the United States from a foreign policy and civil liberties perspective:

Belated thoughts on Osama bin Laden’s demise

A friend sent me a text message yesterday asking what my opinion was of this; meaning the death of Osama bin Laden. Believe it or not, it’s not something I really went into to deep thought about. Everything happened so late on Sunday night and it seemed so unreal.

After thinking about it for a few minutes, trying to process the events of the last day, my opinion is like that of nearly all Americans…I’m glad Osama bin Laden is dead. I’m not the type of person that goes out into the streets and expresses this satisfaction, unlikely many from my generation. But this man was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people and he represented pure evil. He deserved to die.

The SEALs that entered into the compound in Abbottabad are heroes. President Barack Obama deserves credit and the approval ratings bounce to come.

Democrats and libertarians

In 2006, the Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas claimed he was a “libertarian democrat” and argued in favor of the concept not just at his site, but also at Cato Unbound.  I don’t agree with a fair amount of what Moulitsas said, as he spends a good deal of time talking about how government is need to protect us from corporations while missing that corporations are only a threat because they’re empowered by government.  From his 2006 post at The Daily Kos:

The problem with this form of libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty — the government and other individuals.

The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty — the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn’t believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them — corporations and other individuals.

PATRIOT Act extension falls short on votes in the House

The House of Representatives failed this evening to pass extension of key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law that undermines the Bill of Rights and has led to abuse of civil liberties as federal authorities routinely violated provisions of the legislation::

An effort to quietly pass an extension of key provisions in the Patriot Act under the same rules the House uses to name Post Offices failed in a Tuesday night vote.

The vote, which required two-thirds of the House, fell short 277-148. It needed 288 to pass.

The lower chamber tried to pass the extension by suspending the rules, which is typically used to pass non-controversial bills. A second attempt under different rules is expected before they expire on Feb. 28.

The provisions provide the federal government the power to conduct roving wiretaps, access public library check-out information, and the “lone wolf” provision that tracks citizens who may not be connected to larger terrorist groups.

You can view the vote info here.

Despite running on a platform of returning to constitutional principles, 210 Republicans voted for extension of these provisions. However, 26 Republicans stood firm in voting against the PATRIOT Act. It’s a rare victory, short-term, but we’ll take it.


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