The blind Patriot Act

Know who sees your civil liberties and who doesn’t.

Mike Munzenrider

True intellectual honesty and consistency are rare in American politics and should be applauded when they show their normally
hidden face.

Thus, an ovation is in order for the bipartisan group in the House of Representatives that believes in civil liberties. They voted against the continuation of contentious provisions in the Patriot Act, forcing a vote that only gave said provisions a three-month extension.

In the month-long tumult of news coming from the Middle East and the Maghreb and other national and international stories, the vote on the Patriot Act was easy to overlook.

This week âÄî while the opposition in Egypt urges the newly in-power military government to end the use of a 30-year-old emergency law âÄî itâÄôs no surprise that many in the U.S., last week, overlooked CongressâÄô own deliberations over modifying our decades-long emergency law.

In response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Patriot Act was enacted with broad support in order to fight terrorism. It enhanced intelligence agenciesâÄô
abilities to monitor communications.

Since its enactment in October 2001, the Patriot Act has been called too intrusive by opponents and a means of increased security that should be permanent by those who support it.

The three provisions temporarily extended last week give the government far too much arbitrary power to monitor anyone it chooses.

One provision allows the surveillance of the so-called “lone wolf” terror suspect, though such a power has never been used.

Another provision allows the government to surveil a terror suspectâÄôs use of multiple phones without having to identify who that suspect is.

The third provision allows the government âÄî without having to show probable cause âÄî to search records pertaining to a suspect. This includes tax documents, library and bookstore records, along with personal electronics such as hard drives.

The Obama administration supports extensions of the provisions, adding to its already vexing regard for civil liberties. Many Republicans support the extensions as well.

The vast majority of those in the House who voted against the extensions were Democrats.

However, a telling number of the votes that actually made the difference in the Republican-held chamber came from veteran Republicans and Tea Party-backed freshmen. Their adherence to a belief of limited government intrusion into our lives and courage to break the party line is commendable.

For those keeping score in Minnesota, who care about civil liberties, our delegationâÄôs record is lackluster, to say the least.

Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, and Keith Ellison, all Democrats, voted against the extensions.

Every other member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota, including Michele Bachmann, the self-proclaimed Tea Party leader and defender of the Constitution, voted for the extensions.

Sadly, both senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, voted in favor of the extensions as well.

These intrusions onto our constitutional rights have persisted too long. While the U.S. has not suffered another terrorist attack while under the Patriot Act, our civil liberties have been under constant and continual attack.

A wonderful Benjamin Franklin quote has been abused and disused throughout the past decade against the Patriot Act. While itâÄôs fallen into cliché, itâÄôs still apropos here and worth revisiting once more.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Voters take note.