Rand Paul and other like-minded senators have struck a blow to the surveillance state. Well, it was more of a speed bump, but I’ll get to that later. Rand Paul forced the expiration of several provisions in the Patriot Act that are used to legitimize the bulk data collection of Americans. Paul’s actions have had a very polarizing affect on those in Washington and most everyone that is paying attention to the situation. Sadly, it appears that most people are blissfully unaware of the battle over the security and privacy of their online data.
Rand Paul argues, and a recent federal court judge has agreed, that the phone meta data collection being conducted under the Patriot Act is unconstitutional and violates the 4th Amendment. The 4th Amendment requires that the government acquire a warrant before it can conduct searches or seizers of places or items. A warrant requires probable cause and a specific target, person or place or thing to be seized. The mass collecting of all phone call meta data and nearly every electronic message without a warrant is obviously unconstitutional.
The 4th Amendment was originally written because the English had a nasty habit of entering and searching anyone’s house or business that they wanted for any reason. How is the US government going into privately owned ISPs and phone companies and demanding all the data because “terrorism” any different?
The Patriot Act and other justifications of this type of mass data seizing replaces the warrant with “government need”. This is not a sufficient protection for innocent people from the government.
If this isn’t enough to convince someone that mass government surveillance is unconstitutional and should be abandoned, then lets look at the results of over 10 years of massive data collection by the government. The FBI has admitted that none the data that has been collected using the provisions in the Patriot Act has helped them catch terrorists.
There you have it. The Patriot Act clearly violates the Constitution by it’s failure to require warrants to conduct searches and the ten plus years of aggressive data collection hasn’t assisted the government in catching terrorists. Supporters of mass government surveillance have no ground to stand on.
It’s very frustrating to hear many Republicans defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights only to turn around ignore the 4th Amendment for some reason. Democrats are equally at fault here. They talk of civil liberties and appear to be anti-war, but they are equally willing to dump the 4th Amendment for the War on Terror.
Unfortunately, the lapse in the Patriot Act data collection provisions was a short lived victory. The dubiously named USA Freedom Act, signed into law on June 2, 2015, restores many of the provisions that allowed for mass data collection.
Mass data collection has proven ineffective and is blatantly unconstitutional. If politicians are going to swear loyalty to the Constitution and push for mass domestic surveillance they could at least do the honest thing and push for a new amendment to the Constitution removing the need for probable cause and a warrant from government searches and seizers. Having said this, I know why law makers don’t bother amending the Constitution. Because politicians are incapable of limiting their power, even within the confines of a constitution, and the people accept most any intrusion on their liberty as long as it is done slowly or in the interest of “safety”.
Rand Paul allies plan new surveillance reforms to follow USA Freedom Act – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/02/rand-paul-house-allies-surveillance-usa-freedom-act
NSA program on phone records is illegal, court rules – http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/appeals-court-rules-nsa-record-collection-violates-patriot-act/2015/05/07/c4fabfb8-f4bf-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html
‘Big Win’ for Big Brother: NSA Celebrates the Bill That’s Designed to Cuff Them – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/14/nsa-loves-the-nothing-burger-spying-reform-bill.html
The USA Freedom Act Is a Virtual Scam – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norman-solomon/the-usa-freedom-act-is-a_b_7519046.html
Senate Approves USA Freedom Act, Obama Signs It, After Amendments Fail – http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/02/411534447/senateis-poised-to-vote-on-house-approved-usa-freedom-act
FBI admits no major cases cracked with Patriot Act snooping powers – http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/21/fbi-admits-patriot-act-snooping-powers-didnt-crack/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&google_editors_picks=true
Rep Thomas Massie talks Patriot Act on CNN – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZyvbUNk6EU&app=desktop
Sen. Rand Paul: Don’t Trust a Lying Government – http://time.com/3906955/sen-rand-paul-lying-government/
UPDATE: June 10, 2015
Obama Administration Secretly Expanded Scope of NSA Spying to Catch Foreign Hackers – http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/obama-administration-secretly-expanded-scope-of-nsa-spying-to-catch-foreign-hackers-20150604