Why Rand Paul is right to Kill the So-Called PATRIOT Act: It was never about Terrorism

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | –

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has vowed to force the expiration of the so-called PATRIOT Act on Sunday. Paul is right that it is unconstitutional and in this regard he is a better constitutional scholar than Barack Obama, whose stance on this issue is, to say the least, disappointing.

Obama is not interested in the Fourth Amendment. PBS Frontline says that the National Security Agency didn’t even bother to read him into its massive domestic surveillance program until 2010, two years into his first term, and that when they did, he just sat there and nodded approval. You have to wonder if they are blackmailing him in some way, though there isn’t any reason think that. This kind of surveillance is corrosive of democracy, because we can never trust elected politicians on whom the super-spies might have dirt.

The so-called PATRIOT Act was pushed as an anti-terrorism measure after 9/11, but it was never about terrorism. The bureaucrats and the GOP had clearly had such an assault on civil liberties and the US Constitution prepared in the 1990s. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) once told me the story of how this 1100 page bill was dropped on all the congressmen and women late one afternoon and then they were expected to vote on it the next day. He doubted that anyone even read it. But the point is that the bill was off the shelf and ready to go. It was a preexisting conspiracy.

Warrantless and general searches through people’s papers without probable cause was one of the sparks that set off the American Revolution. The Fourth Amendment was enacted to ensure that the abuses that occurred under the crown would not continue in the Republic. In 2001 the PATRIOT Act abrogated the Fourth Amendment.

It used to say: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Section 213 of the unconstitutional Patriot Act allowed “sneak and peak” searches, where law enforcement did not even tell the suspect that his or her premises were being searched. Only 0.5 % of searches conducted with these secret warrants involved terrorism. Mostly, they have been used in the “war on drugs.” That “war” is, in turn, likely an attempt by liquor companies and pharmaceuticals to make pot and other recreational drugs expensive and hard to get, so as to cut down on competition.

All that is not to mention Section 215, which has a secret interpretation inside the FBI that differs from that of the congressmen who authored the act and passed it. (Sen. Ron Wyden found out about this but was prevented by the PATRIOT Act from revealing it to the public!) We know from the Snowden revelations that this law and some executive orders are used to authorize absolutely outrageous warrantless snooping into the affairs of millions of Americans. If you know who someone calls and for how long, and where they are when they do it, you can figure out all sorts of things about him or her. Does she call an abortion clinic? Does he call a venture capitalist? Do public officials have any vices as revealed by their calls? Of course, the National Security Agency goes way beyond just collecting and storing Americans’ call records. With British help, it scoops up the text of emails and phone audio files, i.e. it gets substance and not just metadata. But the metadata would tell them a lot.

We also now know that the metadata is shared with the Drug Enforcement Agency, which uses it to prosecute drug dealers but routinely lies to judges about how the case developed. While it is hard to sympathize with drug dealers, whenever law enforcement acts unconstitutionally and illegally, it harms us all.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: ” I Will Force the Expiration of The PATRIOT Act…”

20 Responses

  1. Is Congress is full of millionaire actors pretending to represent Americans and help govern America?

    One afternoon Congress received the Patriot Act, 1100 pages, and had to vote on it the next day???? What the hell is going on in Congress? This is not funny. This indicates that the American government is very sick and totally dysfunctional for the benefits of the billionaires!

    “Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) once told me the story of how this 1100 page bill was dropped on all the congressmen and women late one afternoon and then they were expected to vote on it the next day. He doubted that anyone even read it. But the point is that the bill was off the shelf and ready to go. It was a preexisting conspiracy.”

    • Representative John Conyers – currently the longest-sitting U.S. House member and chair of the House Judiciary Committee – had been targeted on the Nixon administration’s “Enemies List” and has been under
      continuous attack from both the Israel Lobby and conservatives due to his promotion of Arab causes and opposition to excessive abuses in the U.S law enforcement community.

      His net worth, per financial disclosures, approaches zero.

      The FBI ensnared his wife, Monica, in a bribery sting operation while she was a Detroit City Councilperson – she served time in federal prison.

      He is one of the most honest members of U.S. Congress – and one most despised by vested interests for his advocacy of the underdog.

    • Randy & all the senators who voted against this “un-freedom” act are still much better than the rest of the tyrants in my book. Always remeber – those who sacrifice freedom in the name of security deserves neither. Libertarians for true freedom!

      • One does not have to be a communist to believe that a democratic society can have economic democracy and reasonable security – in fact, that this is the only way it can happen. Libertarians want us to go back to the Gilded Age, when lynchings, terrorist attacks, butchery of workers by Pinkerton mercenaries and National Guardsmen, workplace fatalities, as well as starvation and widespread suffering were all supported by “entrepreneurs”. People like Paul spend climate-denier level amounts of time lying about all of that.

        I see Paul’s agenda as restoring our old tyranny of culture and morality naturally controlled by the rich. I would rather burn this country to radioactive ashes, never to be rebuilt, rather than accept that as our future.

    • Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold was the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act on Oct 24, 2001.
      link to educate-yourself.org

      Evidently he was the only Congress member that had and has the intuition and wisdom to be an honest and worthy Congress member I think. I have not check his voting record.

      I conclude that the 98 members that voted for the Patriot Act are not worthy of representing and governing Americans.

      Intelligence does not mean that you will make the right choice. Can intelligence lead you astray? Are gut feelings, your first impression more reliable than thought out results?

      Voting records should be tabulated showing how all candidates for each position voted on all issues. The average American will not check out voting records nor will I.

      America needs a Party of honesty and wisdom that reviews, studies, compares and comments on voting records.

      Someone please tell me of such parties that do represent honesty and wisdom.

  2. Juan: If you think Rand Paul cares about your 4th Amendment rights, then you would be naïve (which you are clearly not).
    So what is your legislative solution to protect us from terrorists and protect our 4th amendment rights?

    • The one man (Rand Paul) who single handedly put an end to NSA spying doesn’t care about our 4th amendment rights? Let me guess, the Democrat and RHINO talking points suggest he’s only doing this because of his ‘presidential aspirations.’ The fact that he’s always been a constitutionalist and has been fighting NSA spying since it’s inception indicates otherwise. It doesn’t matter if you identify as Democrat or Republican, no American should allow their constitutional rights to be violated. Security should never be placed above liberty. Especially when the federal government, it’s two parties, and their handpicked presidential candidates are using fear mongering tactics to gain more power over us.

      • James Madison believed in a strong republic. He wrote that the oppressive power of state-level factions (clearly the rich in his context) could be overcome by the broader interests of a large republic. Many of Paul’s supporters are claiming things about the Constitution that really apply to the Articles of Confederation, which Madison was criticizing.

        And Ron Paul said that Lincoln was a tyrant. Basically these bastards think the wrong side won the Civil War and want to go back to the legal system that existed before that. Because we all know that whites aren’t racist anymore, right?

  3. “You have to wonder if they are blackmailing him in some way, though there isn’t any reason think that.”

    Maybe the biggest recent conspiracy theory of all is that Obama is progressive and has the interests of people in mind, not corporations and the rich.

    Obama has always been a servant of neo-liberalism and probably it most dishonest agent to date.

    O-bmob-er totally supports the total and complete destruction of all human freedom and right. That his his currently fight hard to legalize human slavery and child sex trafficing with Paul Ryan via his TPP deal says it all, doesn’t it?

  4. “You have to wonder if they are blackmailing him in some way, though there isn’t any reason think that. This kind of surveillance is corrosive of democracy, because we can never trust elected politicians on whom the super-spies might have dirt.

    If someone else said this you would be outraged. I like your work and read it regularly, but this innuendo is out of character.

  5. After 9/11, the NSA’s big lever over politicians was: “let us conduct these searches, or we’ll make sure that you’re blamed for the next terrorist attack.” And, yes – ever since the Warren Court reined in warrantless searches searches through the exclusionary rule, conservatives have been looking for a way to start doing them again. From Casebriefs.com:

    Wolf v. Colorado338 U.S. 25, 69 S. Ct. 1359, 93 L. Ed. 1782 (1949)
    Brief Fact Summary. The petitioner, Julius Wolf (the “petitioner”) was convicted by a State court of conspiring to commit abortions based upon evidence allegedly obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure clause.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause does not prohibit the admission of evidence obtained during an apparently illegal search and seizure in State courts.

    The exclusionary rule was established in 1961:

    Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
    Suspicious that Dollree Mapp might be hiding a person suspected in a bombing, the police went to her home in Cleveland, Ohio. They knocked on her door and demanded entrance, but Mapp refused to let them in because they did not have a warrant. After observing her house for several hours, the police forced their way into Mapp’s house, holding up a piece of paper when Mapp demanded to see their search warrant. As a result of their search, the police found a trunk containing pornographic materials.

    Note: Acording to the police, the pornographic materials were found in Dollree Mapp’s dresser drawer during their search for a man wanted as a bombing suspect. How many men are small enough to hide in a dresser drawer?

    Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former prosecutor, knew how often the police conducted warrantless searches without suffering any consequences (unless they kicked down the door of someone rich and/or powerful).

  6. Rand Paul: dead man walking.
    .
    When you hear yet another news report about the evils of this guy,
    remember that the source of the story is prob’ly the NSA, regardless of who publishes it.
    .
    Maybe if the NSA turned their attentions to the two major parties’ presumptive nominees,
    we would get to see them in the same kind of unflattering light.
    not gonna happen, for reasons I think I can guess.
    .

    • Talk2action.org and exiledonline.com have been reporting ugly stories about Ron Paul for many years, with documentation going back to the early 1970s; the Paul Family’s interpretation of libertarianism picked up the baton from the John Birch Society and fellow Texan R. J. Rushdoony.

  7. Rand Paul has the unfortunate tendency to come up with occasional preposterous Ayn-Randian ideas, but he does appear to be the the only presidential candidate on the GOP side to take his oath to uphold the Constitution seriously.

    As for Obama and his relationship to the Constitution it appears to be non-existent unless it involves his primary role of taking care of the plutocrats and oligarchs that helped him get elected.

  8. A big step to restore our country is to RESCIND the Patriot Act AND the AUMFs of 2001 and 2002.

    ALSO, ban the wanton moment-by-moment personal information gathering by private enterprise, which is far more intrusive than our government.

    Now, what of the astounding amount of information already gleaned by government and private enterprise for well over a decade?

  9. I find it hard to believe they aren’t recording the call audio too. In my opinion with VoIP calls it’s more difficult NOT to capture the audio alongside the call data. At least in in the analog era someone had to physically tap the wires to listen in.

    The speech analytics software in use by the big banks is already pretty good at catching bad trades before they happen. There’s no human actually listening to those calls until the software points them out to compliance officers. It wouldn’t surprise me if law enforcement are using the same analytics software (or better) and can just sit idle waiting for a computer to connect the dots and spit out names of perceived criminals, weather they be the friendly local pot dealer trying to put his kid through college, or the vast number of ‘terrorists’ that are supposedly caught but we don’t ever hear about.

  10. Anyone who can read and understand English knows this “law” is in blatant violation of the constitution. Why the SCOTUS has failed tho accept a case and rule on it is embarrassing for a supposed democracy.

  11. Drug enforcement is a multibillion dollar “Industry of Misfortune.”
    A partial list of those who benefit greatly from drug laws.-
    • Owners and operators of private prisons.
    • Marginal persons in law enforcement.
    • Paid police informants.
    • Dog breeders and trainers.
    • Bail bondsmen.
    • Lawyers who passed their bar exam on the sixth try.
    • Rehab clinic owners and workers.
    • Jailers in general.
    • Far-right wing politicians and their extended families.

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