“I’m a hardworking, tax-paying, kid-raising, church-going citizen of this country,” say author and PBS travel host Rick Steves, “and if I work hard all day long and want to go home and relax with a joint, that is my civil liberty.”
“Obama displays one of the worst tendencies of his predecessor. Yale law professor Jack Balkin has a superb post illuminating the convergence of White House occupants 43 and 44. “There is almost always a prominent and skillful lawyer in the Administration who will tell the President pretty much what he wants to hear,” he writes. “If the President can simply canvas the opinions of enough such lawyers he is not restrained very much by the law.”
Conor Friedersdorf gives quite a few reasons to reconsider voting for Barack in a year:
In critiquing Bush’s policies, Obama articulated the value of adhering to protocol even in trying times, the folly of circumventing the law, and the importance of reestablishing its rule. Thus the promise his presidency held. Over the last two years, the promise has faded. Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay, persisted in legally questionable spying on American citizens, made himself complicit in the mistreatment of Bradley Manning, pushed for the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act without common sense provisions to protect civil liberties, and asserted the right to assassinate American citizens without due process. These aren’t small matters. Civil libertarians have long been outraged.
Conor Friedersdorf makes the case:
Give the hawks their due: terrorism is an ongoing threat to the United States. In fact, it’s likely to pose a bigger threat with every year that passes, insofar as technological advances are permitting people with meager resources to obtain ever deadlier weapons. Heaven forbid they get a nuke or a killer virus. What the hawks fail to recognize, however, is that perpetual war poses a bigger threat to the citizenry of a superpower than does terrorism. Already it is helping to bankrupt us financially,undermining our civil liberties, corroding our values, triggering abusive prosecutions, empoweringthe executive branch in ways that are anathema to the system of checks and balances implemented by the Founders, and causing us to degrade one another.
Alas, we still have an ambiguous exit strategy from the Middle East.
This law has its objectors. One to mention is Senator Rand Paul. He is basically met with this rhetoric about patriotism:
Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passageor else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause. That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush’s DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democrats in 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of “days, not weeks”; McConnell then told The New Yorker: “If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk”). Feinstein learned well.
Greenwald challenges the myth that there is no bipartisanship in Congress.
So when they were out of power, the Democrats reviled the Patriot Act and constantly complained about fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat being used to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns. Now that they’re in power and a Democratic administration is arguing for extension of the Patriot Act, they use fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns (“If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear,” warned Feinstein). And they’re joined in those efforts by the vast majority of the GOP caucus. Remember, though: there is no bipartisanship in Washington, the parties are constantly at each other’s throats, and they don’t agree on anything significant, and thus can’t get anything done. If only that were true.
I would add bipartisan support for Israel to that short list.
Conor Friedersdorf explains why this matters to us and brings Barack Obama into the mix:
Contrary to the misleading reassurances of PATRIOT Act apologists, some provisions of the legislation aren’t merely likely to be abused by law enforcement in the future — they’ve already led to civil liberties violations, many of them documented circa 2009 by the Justice Department. Through National Security Letters, for example, law enforcement is permitted to obtain sensitive information from the banks, phone companies and Internet service providers of any American citizen. The FBI doesn’t need a warrant to request this private data, and the target of the snooping needn’t even be suspected of any connection with terrorism! More than 6,000 Americans were spied on in this manner during 2009 (the most recent year data is available), and the federal government has itself documented flagrant FBI abuses. All that’s missing is a desire to fix the problem. There are plenty of other objectionable PATRIOT ACT sections too: the “lone wolf” provision, roving wiretaps, Section 215 notices. All are worthy of study, especially since now the American people won’t learn more about them through a Congressional debate.
President Obama’s support for this latest re-authorization matters because it bears on a central promise of his candidacy. During Election 2008, he made it seem as though a vote for him would signify and end to the Bush Administration’s excesses in the war on terrorism: its tendency to needlessly sacrifice civil liberties even when less intrusive measures were sufficient, its disdain for checks and balances on executive authority, its habit of using scare tactics to insist that national security legislation be passed quickly and without a debate. Hope. Change. Those were the slogans. They weren’t about getting Osama bin Laden, nice as that was.