by Lone SharkThe mere mention of the “Patriot Act” is probably the easiest way to ignite passions and highlight divisions amongst what otherwise might be polite company- Libertarians and Conservatives will find much common ground on many issues, but not on this one. For the past several months, I’ve quietly listened to Libertarians mercilessly roast any supporter of the Patriot Act as “traitorous”, claim that its supporters are “trashing the constitution”, or worse- even constitutional conservative Congressman Allen West was laughingly branded as a “Tea Party Statist” for his support of the law.
We will grant you that the name “Patriot Act” is a terrible name for the law- you can very well be a Patriot and raise substantial questions about the bill- but then again, most every legislative act’s title is either incomprehensible or deceptive. However, many Libertarians talk about the Patriot Act as if there is no difference between it or any New Deal or Great Society welfare legislation- even though there is a very strong case that can be made to show that the law is both constitutional and common-sensical.
First and foremost- national security is not only a constitutionally delineated obligation, it is the first and most important responsibility of the federal government- period. Protecting the U.S. homeland from attack is the first responsibility of government- and with asymmetric threats destined to harass civilian populations for the foreseeable future, our national security apparatus needs to be savvy and nimble. Just as James Madison and the Founders did not envision (nor did they constitutionally provide for) an Air Force when they were drafting the Constitution, there’s simply no way for the Founders to have envisioned the types of asymmetric threats that we would be dealing with or how to adequately defend against them. Word to the wise- in today’s high-tech threat environment, you either be quick or be dead, as the saying goes.
This past February, Congress voted to temporarily extend Patriot Act provisions for 90 days. Since the ‘Patriot Act’ was signed into law by President George W. Bush, it has proven to be an invaluable tool in protecting the country’s sovereignty from ‘shadow’ threats that are poised to cause death and destruction to Americans. In addition, there are documented instances where authorities have thwarted domestic and foreign-based terrorist attacks with intelligence gathered under the Patriot Act.
Simply put, the Patriot Act is critical to our national security. Its provisions have enabled our government to thwart terrorist activities and preempt attacks, and rather than a breach the Constitutional rights, the law actually helps preserve these very fragile rights that are constantly under assault from enemies foreign and domestic.
Congressman West, as well as others like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Senator Marco Rubio had it right when they voted in favor of extending the provisions of the Patriot Act. West explained his vote in FAVOR of the Patriot Act this way:
“I voted YES for these extensions and many of you called me a traitor and felt that I had turned my back on your 1st and 4th Constitutional rights.”A law-abiding United States citizen has nothing to fear from me and my vote. However, I shall NOT ALLOW the enemies of our State to find gaps in which they will exploit our misplaced benevolence. There is a simple reason why radical Islamic terrorists and their supporters are successful in infiltrating Western nations. They take our founding premise of liberty and turn it against us. I say, NOT ON MY WATCH.
“I can assure you that I will not allow this enemy any quarter, and shall uphold my commitment to our Constitution and all of you.”- Congressman Allen West (R-FL)
These were the three key provisions temporarily extended:* Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation
* Section 206 of the Patriot Act, also known as “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, permits the government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders
* Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, or the so-called “Lone Wolf” provision, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US persons who are not affiliated with a foreign organization.
Unfortunately, many Libertarians (along with almost all Democrats) do not appreciate the new threat environment we now live in post 9/11. One coordinated and well-placed attack can end the country as we’ve known it, and yet too many Libertarians’ responses to this highly evolving threat environment resemble those from See no Evil, Hear no Evil. Are you guys still hoping that issuing those Letters of Marque to terrorist enablers overseas is going to really show those mullahs that we mean business?
We can agree to disagree with our Libertarian friends on the Patriot Act- but at least we still agree that TSA grope-jobs violate the 4th Amendment….