Protecting Privacy and Civil Liberties

The Founding Fathers warned of a Federal Government bent on usurping the power, rights, and privacy of its States and citizens. In the last nine years, the Federal Government has expanded the scope of its power at an alarming rate, while blatantly ignoring the Constitution.

Whether it's passing the 315 page PATRIOT Act without a single member of Congress ever reading the bill, proposing a National ID Card, establishing FISA courts and utilizing warrantless searches, or betraying the medical privacy of ordinary citizens, the Federal Government has overstepped its limited powers as stipulated in the Constitution.

I am working to reassert the rights and privileges of the 50 states and over 300 million Americans. The Federal Government must return to its constitutionally enumerated powers and restore our inalienable rights. I believe that America can successfully protect itself against potential terrorists without sacrificing civil liberties, and I reject the premise that the Federal Government must be given a blank check in the name of national security.

That is why I was the only Senator to object to the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, when it came up in the Senate with no debate or discussion.

In the wake of the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history on September 11th 2001, the 107th Congress passed and the President signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act, which drastically increased the ability of law enforcement and foreign intelligence services ability to conduct searches on those suspected of terrorism-related acts.

Rather than examine what went wrong following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Congress hastily passed a long-standing wish list of power grabs like warrantless searches and roving wiretaps.  The government greatly expanded its own power, ignoring obvious answers in favor of the permanent expansion of a police state.  

In January 2011, Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the FISA Sunsets Extensions Act of 2011 (H.R. 514).  This legislation would provide an extension of roving electronic surveillance authority until Dec. 8, 2011.  H.R. 514 passed the House by a vote of 279-143. 

While being debated in the Senate, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered an amendment to H.R. 514 to extend the expiring provisions until May 27, 2011 (S.AMDT.90).  The change to H.R. 514 was accepted by the Senate.  I voted against H.R. 514, but the legislation was passed by a vote of 86-12.

My main objection to the PATRIOT Act is that searches that should require a warrant from a judge are performed with a letter from an FBI agent - a National Security Letter (NSL).  Since the passage of the PATRIOT Act, over 200,000 NSL searches have been performed.

The roving wiretaps, which were extended for 90 days, allow the government to ignore requirements to name the target of the wiretap or the specific place or facility that is to be monitored.

Since passage of the PATRIOT Act, there has been little debate, and very few committee hearings or examinations allowed on these blatant constitutional abuses conducted by our domestic law enforcement.  It is time for Congress to stop quietly extending provisions and avoiding a serious discussion about protecting all rights of all Americans.  I will insist the Senate allow debate and amendments as we consider this important legislation.

I thoroughly believe that America can prosper, preserve personal liberty, and repel national security threats without intruding into the personal lives of its citizens.