This article was originally published by John W. Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute.
“It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”—Thomas Paine
While Congress subjects the nation to its impeachment-flavored brand of bread-and-circus politics, our civil liberties continue to die a slow, painful death by a thousand cuts.
Case in point: while Americans have been fixated on the carefully orchestrated impeachment drama that continues to monopolize headlines, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law legislation extending three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which had been set to expire on December 15, 2019.
Once again, to no one’s surprise, the bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle—Democrats and Republicans alike—prioritized political grandstanding over principle and their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.
As Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) predicted:
Today, while everyone is distracted by the impeachment drama, Congress will vote to extend warrantless data collection provisions of the #PatriotAct, by hiding this language on page 25 of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that temporarily funds the government. To sneak this through, Congress will first vote to suspend the rule which otherwise gives us (and the people) 72 hours to consider a bill. The scam here is that Democrats are alleging abuse of Presidential power, while simultaneously reauthorizing warrantless power to spy on citizens that no President should have… in a bill that continues to fund EVERYTHING the President does… and waiving their own rules to do it. I predict Democrats will vote on a party line to suspend the 72 hour rule. But after the rule is suspended, I suspect many Republicans will join most Democrats to pass the CR with the Patriot Act extension embedded in it.
Massie was right: Republicans and Democrats have no problem joining forces in order to maintain their joint stranglehold on power.
The legislation passed the Senate with a bipartisan 74-to-20 vote. It squeaked through the House of Representatives with a 231-192 margin. And it was signed by President Trump—who earlier this year floated the idea of making the government’s surveillance powers permanent—with nary a protest from anyone about its impact on the rights of the American people.
Spending bill or not, it didn’t have to shake down this way, even with the threat of yet another government shutdown looming.
Congress could have voted to separate the Patriot Act extension from the funding bill, as suggested by Rep. Justin Amash, but that didn’t fly. Instead, as journalist Norman Solomon writes for Salon, “The cave-in was another bow to normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.”
That, right there, is the key to all of this: normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.
In the 18 years since the USA Patriot Act—a massive 342-page wish list of expanded powers for the FBI and CIA—was rammed through Congress in the wake of the so-called 9/11 terror attacks, it has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption, and abuse.
The Patriot Act drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well.
The Patriot Act also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations, and civil disobedience are now considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.
The Patriot Act justified broader domestic surveillance, the logic being that if government agents knew more about each American, they could distinguish the terrorists from law-abiding citizens—no doubt a reflexive impulse shared by small-town police and federal agents alike.
This, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., was a fantasy that “had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen.
Federal agents and police officers are now authorized to conduct covert black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices while you are away and confiscate your personal property without first notifying you of their intent or their presence.
The law also granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited (at least 545 libraries received such demands in the first year following passage of the Patriot Act).
In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government has subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.
The federal government also made liberal use of its new powers, especially through the use (and abuse) of the nefarious national security letters, which allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies at the mere say-so of the government agent in charge of a local FBI office and without prior court approval.
In fact, since 9/11, we’ve been spied on by surveillance cameras, eavesdropped on by government agents, had our belongings searched, our phones tapped, our mail opened, our email monitored, our opinions questioned, our purchases scrutinized (under the USA Patriot Act, banks are required to analyze your transactions for any patterns that raise suspicion and to see if you are connected to any objectionable people), and our activities watched.
We’re also being subjected to invasive patdowns and whole-body scans of our persons and seizures of our electronic devices in the nation’s airports. We can’t even purchase certain cold medicines at the pharmacy anymore without it being reported to the government and our names being placed on a watch list.
It’s only getting worse, folks.
Largely due to the continuous noise from television news’ talking heads, most Americans have been lulled into thinking that the pressing issues are voting in the next election, but the real issue is simply this: the freedoms in the Bill of Rights are being eviscerated.
The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.
Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole-body scanners, stop and frisk searches and the like—all sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—a recitation of the Bill of Rights would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.
We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.
What once were considered inalienable, fundamental “rights” are now mere privileges to be taken away on a government bureaucrat’s say-so.
To those who have been paying attention, this should come as no real surprise.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the Constitution has been on life support for some time now and is drawing its final breaths.
The American government, never a staunch advocate of civil liberties, has been writing its own orders for some time now. Indeed, as the McCarthy era and the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and others illustrates, the government’s amassing of power, especially in relation to its ability to spy on Americans, predates the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001.
What the Patriot Act and its subsequent incarnations did was legitimize what had previously been covert and frowned upon as a violation of Americans’ long-cherished privacy rights.
After all, the history of governments is that they inevitably overreach.
Thus, enabled by a paper tiger Congress, the president, and other agencies of the federal government have repeatedly laid claim to a host of powers, among them the ability to use the military as a police force, spy on Americans and detain individuals without granting them access to an attorney or the courts. And as the government’s powers have grown, unchecked, the American people have gradually become used to these relentless intrusions into their lives.
In turn, the American people have become the proverbial boiling frogs, so desensitized to the government’s steady encroachments on their rights that civil liberties abuses have become par for the course.
Yet as long as government agencies are allowed to make a mockery of the very laws intended to limit their reach, curtail their activities, and guard against the very abuses to which we are being subjected on a daily basis, our individual freedoms will continue to be eviscerated so that the government’s powers can be expanded, the Constitution be damned.
Unless you’re untouchable and making deals, I don’t sincerely believe that you’re involved in politics.
America was hijacked decades ago and all of this 9-11 was planed well in advance with the phony unpatriotic act that played on fears of the terrorism boogiee man.
Watch the next 9-11 perarl harbor will be from a false flag Space Alien invasion all plotted to scare the masses to give up the remaining freedoms. The 1st boogie man was Communism and we had decades of wars accomplishing nothing, then we has false flag 9-11 terrorism and we entered into 2 decades of endless wars on terror, accomplishing nothing, and now Space Aliens scheme will be cooked up. Like what would be scarier than an unknown space alien attacking the USA, and the Government of Course will save us as they write the next chapter of Fraud. And “Area 54” has been ware housing Space Aliens artifacts for their next COA false flag space alien attack.
What is it about a “design to reduce us under absolute Despotism” that folks don’t understand?
Speaking of the poop, which roles downhill, they don’t understand whether they are the downline or the upline.
A couple of thousand years ago the question was raised, “Who protects us from our protectors”; we’re still awaiting a satisfactory answer.
Kevin2, I believe only we can protect ourselves from them. I’ve had a lot of things going on for the past month and only rarely been on here. I wonder if everyone else has gone on to another site? If so I’d like to know where and I’ll join them. I’ve almost give up on this one. Just not what it used to be.
Kevin, the problem is that the correct answer can only be found when a man does not seek a protector beyond himself. Ben Franklin said it much better: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
The plan: The leading democratic nominee for POTUS (likely Biden) will take on Clinton as his running mate when his selected running mate suddenly drops out due to “personal reasons”, just before the election. In which Clinton will become the VP. Then, when the Biden Ukraine scandal finally becomes a key issue for the GOP (impeachment hearings of their own in retaliation for what the dems did to Trump), Biden will resign for the “betterment of the nation”….and woollah..!!!! Clinton becomes POTUS by default. Don’t think for a minute that these traitorous scumbags aren’t planning this, or something even more dastardly..!!!!
What difference does it make —
Political opportunists are like passive spokesmodels, or that kid who eats gross things on a dare.
What’s in it for TPTB? They get their greatest gains with a slick talker like Bill (I feel your pain) Clinton who gave Democrats GH Bush NAFTA, demise of Glass-Steagall and China Free Trade with a smile. Obama likewise furthered the globalist agenda with smooth oratory. TPTB have a great number of people lined up to sell out the USA making it very sailable; Hillary is too easy to dislike to have the usefulness of the aforementioned.
Many Amer. will say Demo.s (and some Rep.s) see all things through a political prism, this is only partly true. In reality, they just as much see it as religion. Their political ideology is a religion to them, and like other religions, they won’t stop until everyone is converted. You can call their religion generally as an authoritarian statist socialism. Within this religion you will find a few sub-denominations. The largest denomination is anti-white, anti-Christian, and pro-empire, with some Marxism mixed in. The apostles are neo-cons, Zionists, and other quasi-secret deep state entities. The preachers are politicians, various “civil rights” organizations, MSM, some think tanks, a number of NGOs, and many billionaires. This religion does not require you to love your fellow man. Rather, adherents are encouraged to generally despise all those who do not blindly agree with them.
The article is correct in that both major parties corroborate to maintain hold on power. This is a difference ideologically between Dem. and Rep., but frequently on many issues not much in practice. If there was a general civil uprising against them you would see them unite against it. They have become so political and ideological the Constitution has only a secondary importance to them. We know this because they constantly look for ways to circumvent the Constitution on every issue. The ultimate logic, the ultimate principle is not what is right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral, it is what is necessary to maintain, then increase and centralize state power. This is mostly accomplished by eliminating those who stand in the way by any means necessary.
In the 20th century, to establish authoritarian socialist / communist governments around the world they showed their concern of their fellow man by mass murdering untold millions, trying to extinguish Christianity, stripping away every single human right, and building gulags and enslaving more untold millions to work them to death (so much for proletarianism).
Marbury v. Madison if a law is found to be in conflict with the Constitution, then the law is invalid
Norton v. Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425 An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed.
Eisner v. Macomber, 252 U.S. 189 (1920), to wit:
Congress … cannot by legislation alter the Constitution, from which alone it derives its power to legislate, and within whose limitations alone that power can be lawfully exercised.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.
U.S. v Mersky 361 U.S. 431 a statute that regulates without constitutional authority is a nullity even though it be published in the books, recognized by the police and lowers courts, and even though it be unchallenged for decades.
Dastardly being Civil War 2………
Here is the problem I have with almost every so-called constitutional scholar. They fail to read the Constitution in its full context, or worse, they have little to no understanding of what the words in the document mean.
Why do you suppose that the Framers recognized the militia as the only authority “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections, and repel Invasions”, institutionalizing it as “necessary to the security of a free State”? They were placing sovereignty in the hands of the People, not public officials.
Every word was debated, and its meaning understood. The Framers, many of whom would themselves have been part of the State Militia, understood the body to be all the people. It was done so that public officials, when violating their limited authority, could expect that they would be indicted, arrested, and tried by We the People. We have abdicated our duty to enforce the law, and we are assisted in our ignorance of that duty by so-called constitutional scholars.
Those that believe this scripted peach mint fight is fer real, are the same ones that believe wrasslin’ is fer real.
It’s meant to distract you from what the other hand is doing. Does anyone really believe the dotard will be peached?
“Don’t think for a minute that these traitorous scumbags aren’t planning this, or something even more dastardly..!!!!”
Yes even more dastardly is the prospect of Hillary & Michelle. Both are waiting in the wings. . . . .
Praying I am wrong!
30 million illegals roaming about the country and as someone who was born and raised in the same area my entire life , constantly tasked with proving my identity.
At least the Nuremberg Laws didnt hide behind a vail.
The real party is about to begin.
I don’t believe any Democrats will ever even be Investigated and certainly not exposed to any kind of impeachment. They have free rein to ruin the country and no one will interfere. I no longer have any faith in our government OR in American citizens who have so willingly accepted government propaganda and lies. We are done as “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. We are now a socialist country controlled by criminal politicians from all across the Washington landscape. You can rip up the constitution and toss it on the trash heap of socialism, it no longer has any meaning or respect.