America Under Siege | What Happened to the Constitutional Protection Against Illegal Search and Seizure?

Liddick: Patriot Act run amok


Morgan Liddick|SummitDaily

United States in distress, signal all patriots. Nothing in history ever repeats itself exactly. But in this case, close enough is worrisome.

You’re going to need a couple of tools for this one. First, a copy of the Constitution, complete with amendments. Second, a stiff drink. Maybe two. If you’re a “buy local” local, go to the Breckenridge Distillery and get their largest bottle of high-test. Then sit down.

Read the fourth amendment to the constitution. You know, the one about “unreasonable search and seizure,” and “search warrants” and “probable cause” and all that stuff you hear in television crime dramas. After that has sunk in, consider that on May 26, President Obama signed an extension for three provisions of the Patriot Act that would have expired the following day.

These provisions were originally considered, even by their backers, to be so dangerous that they had to be re-approved every three years. One authorizes the federal government to engage in so-called “roving” wiretaps, unbounded by a warrant describing the particular phone to be tapped, or even its location. Another permits the seizure of “any particular thing” related to a terror-related investigation, even though not named in the search warrant. The third authorizes broad powers to surveil a suspected “lone wolf” terrorist, even if there is no probable cause and no threat is immanent.

When signing the extension, President Obama called the provisions “… an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.” Quite different from Sen. Barack Obama’s criticism of them, in which he said that the Senate must “… determine the right balance between protecting our security and safeguarding our civil liberties.” Paging Winston Smith …

Our own Sen. Mark Udall is both clearer-sighted and more consistent than the president. He remains emphatically dubious about the impact of the Act’s wide seizure powers on businesses — which may or may not have a terrorist connection. Remember, under the Patriot Act, mere suspicion is sufficient; one does not have to show cause. “If we cannot limit investigations to terrorism or other nefarious activities,” the good senator asks, “where do they end?”

It’s a good question, so let’s think about it. Evidently, Nancy Pelosi thinks it’s OK for the federal government to examine your business records without allowing a judge to determine that their rationale is more than “because we want to.” Harry Reid likes the Feds monitoring all your communications, by whatever means since you might be connected to terrorists, somehow. Call it “Six Degrees of Ayman al-Zawahiri.” They both think placing individuals under surveillance is OK, even without probable cause, because one just never knows. In the interest of fairness, Mitch McConnell agrees with them both.

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