on Friday, July 26, 2013
Our Government’s Growing Disregard for the 4th Amendment
The Amash – Conyers Ammendment
An Unusual Alliance
By Scott Rohter, July 2013
The 4th Amendment states in part, “The Right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…” It does not say that it might be violated whenever the White House thinks that it should be violated, or that it can be violated under certain circumstances with an order from a FISA Court. So stop infringing on my Right to be secure. There are enough willful, indiscriminate violations of the 4th Amendment going on in our country right now to make Russia’s Vladimir “Ras-Putin” blush and prompt the Kremlin to issue a public apology on behalf of the KGB for providing the official working role model for our NSA. America is not living up to its reputation as the land of the free anymore, and about the only brave that are left here at home seem to be those politicians who have enough bravado or chutzpah to routinely and regularly violate our Constitution and the Bill of Rights with apparent impunity.
What the hell is the matter with some of the people that we elect and send to Washington to represent us today? Do they even know who we should still be afraid of, and what we really need to be kept secure from? It’s not those bearded old men wearing dirty robes and hiding in faraway caves in south-eastern Afghanistan. It is actually clean shaven domestic culprits in designer suits plying the halls of Congress and plotting to destroy what’s left of our civil liberties.
A few days ago there was a vote in Congress on an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill. It was called the Amash – Conyers Amendment. It was an unusual alliance. Justin Amash is a young Republican Congressman from Michigan, and John Conyers is one of the old time Democrats in Congress from the same state. They normally do not agree on much, but they did this time. The Amash – Conyers Amendment sought to scale back some of the excessive monitoring and electronic data collecting activities of the NSA that have steadily and insidiously been claimed by that agency since 9/11 and ever since the passage of the Patriot Act. This was the type of an alliance that will serve our country well. I would like to see more of it.
It was a close vote. The roll call was 217 to 205, but the Amendment to prohibit the routine surveillance and transfer of the phone records of all Americans, who are not the subject of a terrorist investigation or a FISA Court order was defeated unfortunately. Some of the more notable members of Congress who voted basically to continue the routine practice of mass telephone surveillance of American citizens are Michele Bachman from Minnesota, Steven King from Iowa, Peter King from New York, Greg Walden from Oregon, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, Eric Canter from Virginia, and John Bonehead Boehner from Ohio. Congressmen Boehner, Canter, Walden and Ryan are all members of the House Republican leadership.
On the other side of this important issue there were some real American patriots who voted to end the practice of mass surveillance of American citizens by the NSA. Some of the more notable members of Congress who voted to stop this abominable practice are Congressman Louie Ghomert of Texas, a Republican, Tom McClintock of California, a Republican, Peter De Fazio of Oregon, a Democrat, Justin Amash of Michigan, a Republican, and John Conyers of Michigan, a Democrat. The vote on this amendment went across Party lines, and surprised many people, myself included.
The Obama Administration lobbied hard to defeat the Amash – Conyers Amendment which targeted Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and had an enforcement mechanism and a defunding provision for these unlawful activities of the NSA and in the end the President had his way. He won. An alternative amendment called the Pompano Amendment which is a much weaker amendment did pass afterwards by a voice vote. It merely reiterates the principle that non-suspect Americans are not supposed to be targeted by surveillance activities. It targets a different section of the Patriot Act, section 702. It does not have a defunding provision and there is no enforcement mechanism. This basically leaves the indiscriminate routine telephone surveillance practices of the NSA intact and unaffected.
One of the original writers of the Patriot Act is Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. As head of the committee that drafted the Patriot Act he probably knows it better than most, and has a better understanding of what that particular legislation was supposed to do than other Congressmen. Yesterday he voted Yes on the Amash – Conyers Amendment to curtail the growing, unlawful activities of the NSA, and to scale back its excessive monitoring and data collecting capabilities. He voted to prohibit the National Security Administration from indiscriminately monitoring American citizens who are neither the subjects of a terrorist investigation or a FISA Court order. “This is no longer the law that I wrote”, Congressman Sensenbrenner said of the Patriot Act. Congressman David Schweikert of Kansas also agrees with him. He said the Patriot Act has become an open season to fish in constitutionally prohibited waters.
Collecting irrelevant phone company data on its customers who are lawful American citizens and not the subjects of any terrorist investigation is absolutely wrong. It goes way beyond the original intent of the Patriot Act. Then both Congressman David Schweikert and James Sensenbrenner as well as everyone else who backed the stronger Amash – Conyers Amendment voted yes on the Pompano Amendment in a voice vote.
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