There was a temporary victory for civil liberties yesterday as the Congressional Democrats, with the help of some Tea Party Republicans, voted down an extension of the Patriot Act. There has always been the rare conservative who has been strong on civil liberties. The Tea Party, while generally representing the current far right Republican base, does have a variety of types of supporters and it is good to see that this does include some who are supportive of civil liberties. Unfortunately they represented only a minority of the Tea Party caucus. Twenty-six Republicans voted against the bill, including eight newly elected Republicans.
Dennis Kucinich helped establish the coalition which opposed the Patriot Act, calling for members of the Tea Party to show support for the Constitution on this matter:
“The 112th Congress began with a historic reading of the U.S. Constitution,” Kucinich said. “Will anyone subscribe to the First and Fourth Amendments tomorrow when the PATRIOT Act is up for a vote? I am hopeful that members of the Tea Party who came to Congress to defend the Constitution will join me in challenging the reauthorization.”
The full text of Dennis Kucinich’s speech against the Patriot Act is under the fold:
I will certainly never seek to impugn the feelings of those who say we have to have the Patriot Act in order to protect our country. We’re all patriots here and we all want America to be protected.
But we have to remember our constitutional experience here, and the reason why we have a Fourth Amendment that protects people, not just from unreasonable search and seizure but from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their lives. When we look at our constitutional experience and at all the efforts in the buildup to it, we didn’t hear “Give me liberty or give me a wiretap.” We didn’t hear “Don’t tread on me, but it’s OK to spy.” What we heard was a ringing declaration about freedom and it was enshrined in that Constitution.
I stood on the floor of the House way back when the Patriot Act came forward, voted against it because I read it, understood that it opened up the door for a broad range of possibilities by the government into our daily lives. The gentleman from Wisconsin, who is my friend, correctly pointed out earlier the difference between National Security Letters and the Patriot Act. But it also is true that Section 505 of the Patriot Act gave the government the ability to greatly expand who could issue a National Security Letter, so much so that nearly 50,000 National Security Letters were issued by the FBI in the year 2006. They don’t have to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act. They just invoke the National Security Letter authority and reach into people’s financial records, their medical records, their reading material.
What’s happening to our country? Why are we giving up our basic liberties? We need to take a stand here, and this is a good a day as any to take a stand. Many members of Congress, including those supported by my friends in the Tea Party, maintain their goal is to get rid of big government, get government out of their lives. Well, how about the Patriot Act, which has the broadest reach and the deepest reach of government into our daily lives? Shouldn’t we be thinking about that? Some want to get government out of health care, some want to get government out of retirement security. How about getting government out of people’s bedrooms, out of people’s financial records, out of people’s medical records?
Vote no on extending the Patriot Act!