PATRIOT Act

Massie Tells Congress to “Wake Up” to Government Intrusion

Thomas Massie

There has been a lot of outrage and surprise expressed by members of Congress over the mounting scandals coming out the Obama Administration. But perhaps the real scandal is that the Congress is often complicit when Americans liberties are violated by out-of-control administrations.

During a speech yesterday on the House floor, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) pointedly told his colleagues in Washington to “wake up” to the sort of overreach and abuses of civil liberties that are being committed by the government.

“Can’t we see what’s happening? In just the past month we discovered that the NSA is snooping on millions of innocent Americans using the PATRIOT ACT (Congress wrote the Patriot Act!), the IRS is targeting conservative organizations using the tax code (Congress created that tax code), and DHS has 200 million hollow-point bullets stockpiled (Congress funded DHS — just last week!),” explained Massie. “You want me to be surprised? I’m not surprised… I’m outraged! But what’s happening here? In each case of executive overreach, Congress gave an inch, and the executive branch took a mile.”

Massie noted that the outrage from members over the scandals is hypocritical. They complain and investigate then, he said, “Congress turns around and funds and encourages more unconstitutional behavior.”

“If we don’t reverse this trend, we can kiss our civil liberties good–bye,” said Massie.

“The Constitution embodies American principles that men and women have fought and died to protect. We swore an oath to it. Mr Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to reflect on the damage that CISPA, the PATRIOT Act, and the NDAA have wrought on our civil liberties, and implore my fellow members to uphold the constitutional rights they swore to protect,” he added. “Don’t yield one inch.”

Watch Massie’s full speech below:

Americans Not Happy about NSA Snooping

NSA secrets

It seems that Americans have finally awakened to the abuses of their civil liberties. Two new polls show that a solid majority of the public isn’t happy about revelations that the National Security Agency has been collecting their phone data for datamining purposes (emphasis mine):

At first blush, it seemed, most Americans haven’t gotten too exercised about the revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly tracking everyone’s phone data, in the name of protecting national security.

That was the take-away from a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday. But two new polls out Wednesday – one by Gallup, another by YouGov taken for The Economist – paint a difference picture. Both find that a majority of Americans disapprove of the NSA data-mining programs.

In the Gallup poll, conducted June 10 and 11, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the programs, while 37 percent approve. YouGov found that 59 percent disapprove of the programs, and only 35 percent approve.

Americans are also skeptical that the snooping is doing much good. Per YouGov, only 35 percent say it’s likely the information has prevented a terror attack, while 54 percent doubt it has. And while President Obama insists that “nobody is listening to your phone calls,” it turns out only 17 percent of Americans think that’s true, according to the YouGov poll, taken June 8 to 10.

Broad Coalition of Groups, Companies Team Up for Privacy

The outrage over the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs has motivated a broad coalition of advocacy groups and Internet companies to come together in an effort to bring it to an end. This coalition — which includes the EFF, FreedomWorks, ACLU, Daily Kos, Reddit, and Mozilla — has sent a letter to members of Congress to end the surveillance and launched a website, StopWatching.us, where concerned citizens can sign a petition supporting the principles of the letter to be delivered to lawmakers.

“The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a career intelligence officer showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments,” noted the coalition. “As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.”

House Republican Wants to Prosecute Journalists for Reporting on Leaks

Peter King on CNN

It’s not just the Obama Administration that wants to go after journalists. During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said that the the government should prosecute reporters when they publish sensitive information from leakers and whistleblowers.

Cooper and King were discussing the recent leak about the National Security Agency’s broad collection of Americans’ phone records, even if they aren’t suspected of terrorist activity. Glenn Greenwald, a journalist at The Guardian, published information he received from a whistleblower about the secret program. The story renewed debate on the PATRIOT Act and government surveillance.

“[I]f they willing knew that this was classified information, I think action should be taken something of this magnitude. I know the issue of leaks, I think something on this magnitude, there is an obligation both legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something, which would so severely compromise national security,” King told Cooper. “As a practical matter, I guess there have been in the past several years, a number of reporters who have been prosecuted. So the answer is yes to your question.”

NSA Scandal Brings Reminders of Past PATRIOT Act Abuse

Most Americans now know that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a broad interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to spy on their phone records and online data, even if they aren’t accused or suspected of a crime. While this may be a new revelation to most, this sort of abuse of the PATRIOT Act has been going on for some time.

Let’s take a look back for a moment. Back in 2007, the Washington Post reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had conducted an internal audit of agency national security investigations and found more than 1,000 potential violations of the law or agency rules:

An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

Rand Paul Slams Obama on Civil Liberties, Weighs Court Challenge

Rand Paul on

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is none too pleased with President Barack Obama’s broad interpretation of the PATRIOT Act and use of surveillance techniques on innocent Americans. During his appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Paul explained that the type activity in which the NSA has engaged is a direct infringement of the Fourth Amendment.

“[T]hey’re looking at a billion phone calls a day is what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy. It sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment says you can look at and ask for a warrant specific to a person, place and the items,” noted Paul, who has established himself as one of the more vocal defenders of civil liberties in Washington. “This is a general warrant. This is what we objected to and what our Founding Fathers partly fought the revolution over is they did not want generalized warrants where you could go from house to house with soldiers looking for things or now from computer to computer, to phone to phone, without specifying who you’re targeting.”

Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, asked Paul about a couple specific examples of terrorists plots that werre allegedly thwarted as a result of the program, including a plot to bomb the New York City subway (that claim has also turned out to be false). Paul explained that he has no problem with specific targeting of suspected terrorists, but that’s not what is going on with this program.

Government to Open Investigation into NSA’s PRISM Leak

NSA's PRISM

Following claims that PRISM, a surveillance program run by the FBI and the National Security Agency was collecting data from millions of Americans who use online tools like Facebook on a regular basis, Reuters published an article reporting that a federal law may require investigation into the source of the claims.

The probe would be launched to find the source of information that leaked details regarding PRISM to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers.

As soon as the scandal broke, President Barack Obama was quick to point out that a surveillance program was necessary in order to keep the nation safe. He assured the public that “nobody’s listening to the content of people’s phone calls.”

Details concerning the probe haven’t surfaced as of yet but recent events have taught us that the U.S. system of checks and balances may not be enough to keep this administration from using every tool in its power to persecute those who have dared to denounce the abusive use of powers granted to the executive branch as a result of the re-authorization of the Patriot Act in 2011.

There is No Defense for Blatantly Tossing Aside the Fourth Amendment

Fourth Amendment

The response from the Obama Administration and Senators from both parties to the NSA’s seizing of millions of Verizon customers’ phone records has been typical. They’ve explained that members of Congress had been briefed on the program, that it’s part of a datamining effort that has been going on since 2007, and that there is nothing new under the sun.

In an effort to dismiss concerns, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) noted that the program was legal under provisions of the PATRIOT Act and said that the NSA was “protecting America.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is among the first in Washington to trade away civil liberties for security, said that he is “glad” the NSA is collecting phone records. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urged people bothered by the program to “calm down.”

NSA Probably has Your Phone Records

NSA Spying

Just last week a friend joked, “Between you, me, and the NSA reading this text message right now.” It’s a joke that has become common in the post-9/11 world, but we got a sobering reminder as to why it’s no longer funny.

The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained a court order in April requiring Verizon to turn over phone records of all calls on its network for no apparent reason at all. Glenn Greenwald broke the story last night at The Guardian (emphasis mine):

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Obama: Reject Voices Warning of Tyranny

Barack Obama at Ohio State University

During a commencement address at The Ohio State University, President Barack Obama praised government, played down the role of the individual, and urged students to reject the voices of tyranny.

“We, the people, chose to do these things together — because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition,” President Obama told graduating students. “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works.”

“They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner,” he continued. “You should reject these voices.  Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

The shot against “individual ambition” is ironic because President Obama himself is the defintion of that term. He was an Illinois state senator who gave a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Later that year, he was elected to the United States Senate. By 2007, he was campaigning full-time for his party’s presidential nomination, which he won in 2008, and would subsequently be elected president.

If that doesn’t define ambition, what does? That’s not a shot against him, by the way. President Obama’s personal story is one that should be admired. The problem with him, of course, is the policies he pushes, which leads us to the next point.


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