The Constitution Be Damned

The freedoms in the Bill of Rights are being eviscerated. We can continue to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that the Constitution is still our governing document but, soon or later, we have to face reality.

As  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 birds of prey on both sides of the isle prioritized political grandstanding over their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.  As Norman Solomon wrote in an article at Salon, “the cave-in was another bow to normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.”

In the 18 years since the massive 342 page US  Patriot Act was rammed through Congress, it has “snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse,”  according to John Whitehead at the Daily Bell.  It drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least 6 Amendments and possible more.

The Patriot Act 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.  It justified broader domestic surveillance of the general public which, Robert O’Harrow, Jr. of the Washington Post writes was a “fantasy that had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.”   9/11 simply provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and the collection of mountains of data on most law-abiding citizens.

The Act granted the FBI a right to go to your place of employment, demand personal records, and question your supervisors and fellow employees, with prior notification.  In addition, it has allowed government access to your medical records, school records and pretty much any other record that exist about you up to and including what magazines or books you check out at your library or visit web sites you visit.

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, to name but a few. 

The federal government  has  taken liberal use of these  new powers, especially through the use and abuse of the nefarious national security letters that allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit card companies  the mere say-so of the government agent in charge of a local FBI office and without prior court approval.

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.

“It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.” Thomas Paine

Source:  Betraying the Constitution: Who Will Protect Us from an Unpatriotic Patriot Act?  By John W. Whitehead, The Daily Bell

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