Thursday, May 21, 2015

No Need To Sacrifice Liberty For Security

New Jersey Governor and likely 2016 Presidential candidate Chris Christie (R-NJ) said on Monday, he would increased spending to expand the government's “intelligence capabilities” to spy on American citizens. Christie’s comments are in response to the ongoing debate occurring in the Congress, as provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, are set to expire at the end of this month.

In a common refrain with most Republican lawmakers, Christie harkened back to that September 2001 attack, stating that, “Everyone will remember 9/11, but have forgotten what 9/11 felt like.” He also stated that “We acted differently, we conducted our lives differently. We were reticent. We were scared to do things as a people. That’s a stealing of our liberty too.”

Christie went on to critique the arguments of opponents of the domestic spying programs saying, “The founders made sure that the first obligation of the American government was to protect the lives of the American people.” Christie concluded his argument by employing a one-liner, explaining that “You can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”

If Governor Christie and the Republican Party as a whole wish to understand the one of the most sacred tenets upon which the United States is founded, he needs only look to two of the most commonly repeated quotes by Patrick Henry and Benjamin Franklin.

In a 1775 speech to the Virginia Convention, Henry stated his most famous quote during a debate concerning whether to send Virginian troops for the Revolutionary War. His exclamation to “Give me liberty, or give me death!” was also featured on the Culpepper Minutemen Flag of 1775, in addition to the iconic “Don’t Tread on Me.”

The quote by Franklin that, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” was first written for the Pennsylvania Assembly in November 1755 in its Reply to the Governor. Franklin used derivations of the quote throughout his life, including a variant in his famous Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1738.

As Henry's and Franklin's statements make clear, defense should not ever trump our essential liberties, not the least of which are those explained in the Fourth Amendment. If we are to forfeit liberty in the face of fear, that liberty is nearly worthless. When the colonists chose to fight a revolutionary war against the British Crown, they clearly chose liberty over security.

But the attacks of September 11, 2001, did not happen for lack of having a Patriot Act that authorized the government to capture and record every phone call made and received by every American, and record the websites visited and emails sent and received by every American. The attacks of September 11, 2001, happened for lack of leadership in President G.W. Bush's White House.

As chronicled by former acting CIA director Mike Morell in his new book, The Great War Of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism, and former counter terrorism chief Richard Clarke in his book, Against All Enemies, several government security agency experts repeatedly warned President Bush and Bush Administration officials of a pending attack by Al-Qaeda -- from the weeks before Bush took the oath of office until the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. More here...

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul spent more than 10 ½-hour on the Senate floor giving a filibuster-like speech to protest the renewal of the Patriot Act, highlighting his opposition to the National Security Agency's controversial bulk collection of telephone data. "All this gathering up of bulk data records isn't what we needed," Paul said on Wednesday of his perspective on how the terrorists behind 9-11 could have been better tracked. Paul officially relinquished the Senate floor at 11:48 after 10 hours and 30 minutes.

The 'filibuster'-like move became bipartisan on Wednesday when, after nearly three hours of speaking, Paul yielded to Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon for a question. "There is no question it is a very dangerous world," Wyden said. "But what doesn't make sense is to be pursuing approaches that don't make us safer and compromise our liberties."

Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act. The legislation passed by a 338-to-88 vote signalling a bipartisan, veto-proof majority. The measure also has the support of the White House, leaving the Senate in a precarious position. The House bill is now in the Senate. McConnell, who wants a clean re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act, said on Tuesday he will allow a vote on the House-passed measure.

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