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Posts Tagged ‘Rand Paul’

After Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster over the use of drones to kill American citizens, Senator John McCain responded by calling him and several other legislators “wacko birds“.  In answer, Representative Justin Amash offered an amusing response on Twitter, which reads:

Amash TweetAs you may know, while Senator Paul and other supporters of liberty launched this filibuster, Senator McCain and others in the establishment crowd were absent from the fight, instead enjoying dinner with President Obama.

I’ll applaud the efforts of any legislator who is willing to stand up for our civil liberties against the ever-expanding encroachment of the federal government.  However, even though it is several days old, to offer such a witty reply, as Rep. Amash has done, cannot pass without mention on this blog.

Now I’m sure some politicians (like Senators McCain and Graham) would like nothing more than for the liberty wing of the Republican Party to shut up and go away.  I’m just glad that there are folks like Rep. Amash and Sen. Paul in Washington who are able to lead with both principles and humor.

You call join me in following Rep. Amash on Twitter here.

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Do you believe that the greatness of our country was founded upon the principles of a limited and constitutional government, personal responsibility, and the free market?  Do you sometimes think that the Republican Party and the nation as a whole have lost their way?  And does your adherence to these principles of liberty ever make you feel like a political outcast?  Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions and live in or around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I have some good news for you!

On September 16th, the Republican Liberty Caucus of the Shenandoah Valley will be holding a meeting in Staunton.

Although some of you may not know of the Republican Liberty Caucus, you are, no doubt, familiar with some of the leaders that they have endorsed.  Here is a short list:  2012 Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas.  I think you will agree that each of these individuals are some of the best leaders that this nation has to offer, statesmen who promote the values of limited government conservatism and liberty.

As mention earlier, starting at 4 PM on September 16th, the Republican Liberty Caucus of the Shenandoah Valley will be gathering.  It will take place at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant in Staunton, Virginia, just off of the 222 exit on Interstate 81.  Although the guest list is still tentative, it is confirmed that Robert Kenyon, the chairman of the Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus, will be there.

So, no matter where you happen to live in the Shenandoah Valley, or even if you reside just outside the area, I hope that you can join us in September as we seek to build a coalition of like-minded activists.  Please RSVP on the Facebook page so that we reserve enough space for all.

Working together, we can reclaim our party, restrain our government, and restore our nation.

See you on the 16th!

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Photo thanks to RonPaul.com

There is no doubt in my mind that Representative Ron Paul is currently the most important figure in the liberty movement today.  His actions over the last several years have awakened a multitude of activists and cured the apathy of countless others.  However, we must keep in mind that it is likely that Ron Paul’s spotlight will diminish once his current House of Representatives term expires next year.

It’s time for a bit of history.  For those who don’t recall, late 2006-2007 was a bleak time for many conservatives.  The Democratic Party captured both the House and the Senate, establishing the Pelosi/Reid era in Congress.  Although a Republican still sat in the White House, it became increasing apparent that George W. Bush had little desire for promoting conservative principles like a constitutionally limited government, rolling back the size and scope of federal agencies and departments, and reducing the ever inflating national debt.  It seemed as if many of my fellow conservatives turned a blind eye toward many odious policies, even though they ran contrary to our principles, simply because a Republican leader promoted them.  Many of the same conservatives who once opposed the military adventures of President Bill Clinton now applauded Bush for an even more aggressive policy of nation building.  In short, principle had taken a back seat to party.

As for myself, I was feeling pretty depressed about the direction of my party and the state of politics in America in general.  Early 2007 found me in Tennessee, working a three-month contract with Students for Life of America, a pro-life organization based in Northern Virginia.  Promoting important causes, like the pro-life issue, allowed me to advanced my principles, even when it seemed as if my party had lost its way.

After this position ended, I considered returning to campaign work.  In 2006, I was employed by the Republican Party of Virginia.  Prior to that time, I had volunteered on many campaigns and so I felt as if I had a pretty good understanding of the ins and outs of campaigning.  I had never worked on a presidential campaign and considered it to be a logical conclusion to my time in the field.  But who was the best choice?  Who was the candidate who best advocated my principles, the values of a liberty-minded conservative?

Based upon familiarity, I first considered former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.  But I quickly found a few key areas of policy disagreement.  Next on the list came pro-life favorite Senator Brownback of Kansas.  But again, he was less than ideal.  Well-known politicians like Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani, didn’t seem like very good choices either.

Digging deeper into the field I came across Representative Ron Paul.  I must confess that I didn’t know too much about him at that time.  Given the fairly establishment circles in which I ran, I believed what I was told, that Dr. No was little more than a cantankerous old man from Texas who didn’t get along with most of his fellow Republicans.  But the more that I read about him, the more I realized that he represented just what my party needed and my principles demanded.  He fought against the expansion of the federal government and sought to shrink it, he cherished the Constitution and the rule of law, he was a voice for the unborn, and opposed installing leaders of other nations and meddling in their domestic affairs.

These were some of my thoughts before Paul.  You may find it odd that I use the term “before Paul” given that he has been in elected office since the mid 1970’s.  But let me explain.  Although it is true that Ron Paul has been involved in politics since before many of us were born, his greatest impact in the national political dialogue began with his 2007/2008 run for the GOP nod for president.  This primary catapulted him to the forefront of the liberty movement and established a near cult-like following among some of the faithful.

But now, after five years, we are faced with the grim reality of a movement without Paul.  After all, he is not running for re-election to the House of Representatives in November and, unfortunately, will not be the Republican nominee for president.  I won’t say that I know his plans, he could host a talk show or be a regular on Fox News like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin, but I expect that his role will diminish as the years pass.

I wish I could say that the movement has transcended national leaders, that a sufficient portion of the population is educated and energized to take back their country from the statists who have led us down this troubled path.  I wish I could also say that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were the GOP leaders who fully embraced our philosophy, but neither statement would be true.

Fortunately, there are other leaders in Congress, leaders like Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, or Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina who have been fighting the good fight for liberty.  The best well known, Senator Rand Paul, has also drawn a good bit of flak, tarnishing him in the eyes of some Ron Paul supporters for endorsing Mitt Romney recently.  I won’t go into that argument again, but you can find my thoughts here.

I suppose my take home point here is that there has been a time before Ron Paul was there to share his wisdom, inspiration, and leadership.  Whether it happens today, tomorrow, next year, or fifty years from now, there will come a time when Ron Paul is no longer with us.  Therefore, although Ron Paul is currently an important force and should be remembered and honored as such, for the sake of the future of the movement, we must become something more than a cult of personality based around Dr. Paul.  When he leaves us, we cannot allow ourselves to be lost in the wilderness once more, waiting for the next great leader to serve as our guide.

The future belongs to all of us.  Ron Paul has made his mark and, God-willing, he will continue to do so for a long time to come.  But, like Barry Goldwater before him, the time of Ron Paul is coming to a close. So what will you accomplish to further the ideals of liberty in this great nation of ours?

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Picture from thehollywoodgossip.com

Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky announced on the Sean Hannity show that he was endorsing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for president in the 2012 Republican nomination.  The typical response from a number of my Facebook friends was quite hostile.  As the argument went, how could Rand Paul endorse a liberal like Mitt Romney when the champion of liberty and Senator Paul’s father Ron Paul is still in the race?

I would wager that quite a few people who are upset with Rand are fairly new to the political game and therefore don’t understand how the endorsement game works.

For example, closer to home, State Senator Mark Obenshain (VA-26) recently sent out an email encouraging citizens to vote for Representative Bob Goodlatte and George Allen in the Virginia Republican primary on Tuesday.  Now, as you may recall, I have endorsed both Karen Kwiatkowski and Jamie Radtke; obviously I do not agree with Obenshain on this matter.  But, when it comes to his votes in the General Assembly, I maintain that Senator Obenshain is one of the best members of that body.  Should this one simple issue of endorsement outweigh a multitude of good votes and legislation?  Conversely, if a poor candidate or politician endorses a liberty-minded candidate, should that announcement erase a long slate of bad positions?

As I wrote many years ago, Virginians for Life sent out an email about then State Senator Ken Cuccinelli back in 2008.  They compared him unfavorably to the biblical Judas due to his endorsement of Representative Frank Wolf.  I would not have endorsed Wolf as he and I disagree over the underlying philosophy of proper governance.  However, if we all reacted by condemning Cuccinelli over this rather trivial matter, what would be the end result?  Would we still have a spirited attorney general that is willing to fight against Obamacare and other overreaches of the federal government?

Be it for better or worse, endorsements are one way elected officials pay back favors and reward loyalty.  After all, here in the 6th district, both Bob Goodlatte and George Allen have helped a number of our current politicians gain their office and thus many of those folks feel that they need to repay that debt now.  Moving back to the national level, the theory goes that it is the duty of every good Republican politician (who wishes to remain relevant to the party) to offer some measure of support for the party’s presidential candidate.

But let’s return to the first question.  How can Rand Paul endorse Mitt Romney while Ron Paul is still in the race?  The response is quite simple, but not an answer that most Ron Paul supporters will either accept or want to hear.  I hate to say it, but short of a major miracle or divine intervention, Mitt Romney is and will be the Republican nominee for President.

Although it is true, as repeatedly pointed out these last few days, Rand Paul is not Ron Paul, the simple fact remains that Senator Paul is one of the few liberty-minded legislators in the United States Senate.  In one fairly recent example, while most Senators were either apathetic, or downright hostile in the case of Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC), about defending our civil liberties during the debate regarding the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial, Senator Paul remained firm in his efforts to try to derail this effort.

Regardless of this minor endorsement issue in the grand scheme of things, as long as Rand Paul continues to embrace the key principles of liberty and the Constitution, I am proud to support and defend the Senator from Kentucky.  And yes, if you are wondering, these thoughts do come from a former Ron Paul staffer who actively volunteered for his former boss in this election cycle.  I just hope that the rest of my like-minded brethren will realize that Rand Paul is a great senator and, endorsement or not, we need to support and elect more men and women like him.

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On Friday at noon, the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties held their monthly First Friday gathering at the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  The featured speaker was Pete Snyder who is heading up the Republican victory program in Virginia for 2012.

The meeting itself was a fairly ordinary affair.  About two-dozen or so local Republicans attended, most enjoyed lunch, while I just had several glasses of sweet tea.  However, once just about everyone had dispersed, I paid my bill, sat on the bench near the entrance and wept.

As we live in a society which typically discourages most public forms of emotion, especially from men, it must have been a strange sight indeed for those around watching a thirty-one-year-old person cry for no discernable reason.

So what, may you ask, caused me to act in such a fashion?  The answer is boiling anger, overwhelming frustration, and infinite sadness triggered by the actions of one local Republican.

I wept for the sake of the party.  In the meeting, one person declared that our goal should be to elect “anyone but Obama”.  Really?  Has our party become so vapid and devoid of rational worth that we will gladly rally behind any man or woman regardless of merit simply because he or she is not Barack Obama?  Heck, Hilary Clinton is not Obama; does that mean we should support her if she had an “R” by her name?  And isn’t there is an ocean of difference between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich?  Don’t principles mean anything anymore?  And I started to fear that perhaps I was gravely mistaken to believe that they ever did.  Yet if we cast aside principles, what’s left to separate the parties other than a meaningless animal mascot and a color?

I wept for the state of Virginia and the nation as a whole due to the fact that we have so many leaders of both parties that seem to care nothing or at least very little about the values of the people and the society that placed them in their position of power.  Sure, we can criticize members of the other party who trample upon the Constitution, moral decency, or the rule of law, but calling out members of your own party who violate these ideals has become taboo.  Therefore, I must mourn the loss of political dialogue and freedom that have given way to strict and unthinking party loyalty.

Although it may sound selfish, I wept for my future employment prospects and myself.  As I’ve mentioned to many people over the last several months, there are few things that I desire more than the chance to make a decent living promoting my political principles among my fellow countrymen, the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  However, my rugged insistence of clinging to my values is likely seen as a liability.  Who wants to hire a passionate paleo-conservative when malleable yes men are available? Which kind of person will likely cause less headaches?  Unfortunately, most of the powerful and affluent politicians scoff at liberty-minded constitutional conservatives while those companies and people who do value us either have no money and can only offer volunteer opportunities or give little better than subsistence wages.  Does the easiest, and perhaps only, way to succeed involve selling out?  Again, I fear that blind allegiance to the party and its leaders trump standing up for the creeds that supposedly guide their actions.

Lastly, and more importantly, I wept for the demise of a former political ally, a person who supposedly once held the political principles that I cherish.  To be fair, I had known for some time that this person had jettisoned our shared beliefs, but I now realized that there was no turning back, there is no hope for redemption.  Conservative/libertarian principles have melted away and have been replaced with a zeal for the establishment.  Now the ideological drift is simply too great; today we have about as much in common as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky does with someone like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or Virginia Senator Steve Newman does with fellow Virginia State Senator Tommy Norment.  We might both call ourselves Republican but we likely have as many areas of disagreement as agreement.

This knowledge is particularly disappointing, but it alone wouldn’t have been enough to spur such a reaction.  However, after the Republican meeting was over, that same person savagely attacked me with an over the top tirade in front of a fellow activist.  At that moment, that person represented to me everything that is wrong with politics today; a person ruled, apparently not by principle, but self-serving ambition that is willing to use anything or anyone as a stepping-stone to greater influence.  Although I know that it only heightened tensions during the exchange, much like a scene from Fellowship of the Ring, I more or less inquired when did this person decide to “abandon reason for madness?”  This particularly ugly combination of events frays any past political ties and makes the hope of any future cooperation unlikely at best.

So, if you happened to have entered the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg on Friday and saw someone crying on the bench, now you know why.  I was overcome with grief and anger mourning the downfall of many things: the bastardization of my party, the way in which so many politicians continually deceive the public without recourse, the loss of a former ideological believer, the likely failure of my future, and the death of the principles which supposedly guided them all.

How would you feel if you discovered that so many of the activities and relationships you crafted over the past seventeen years might be meaningless?  What if your great passion created nothing but corrupted politics and false friends, and the only thing you had to show for your effort was a pile of crumbly ashes?  If so, you might say, as Lesley Gore wrote in her well-known song, “it’s my party…you would cry too if it happened to you”.

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A few hours ago, I received word from George Allen’s campaign that today he signed The Contract from America.  By doing so, he joins the growing ranks of limited government conservatives like Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.  As Allen states, “To me, signing this pledge is an affirmation of my commitment to protecting individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom.”

But what is The Contract from America, you might ask?  I’m sure most of you remember the GOP’s 1994 Contract with America, but now we are talking about a contract from America?  What an odd name.  Doesn’t it sound like some secessionist ploy?  Well, here’s the contract.  Read it yourself:

The Contract from America

We, the undersigned, call upon those seeking to represent us in public office to sign the Contract from America and by doing so commit to support each of its agenda items, work to bring each agenda item to a vote during the first year, and pledge to advocate on behalf of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

Individual Liberty

Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not granted by our government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.

Limited Government

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

Economic Freedom

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

1. Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (82.03%)

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (72.20%)

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69%)

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution. (64.90%)

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning. (63.37%)

6. End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57%)

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries. (56.39%)

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51%)

9. Stop the Pork

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%)

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38%)

It certainly sounds promising doesn’t it?  Any effort that seeks to restrain the growing power of the federal government is certainly an idea I can get behind.  It seems, I’m not alone; the concept has the backing of a number of limited government organizations like The Leadership Institute, The Republican Liberty Caucus, and Freedom Works.

However, I do have two questions regarding the contract.  First, what’s with all the percentages after each segment?  Is it a ranking of priority?  Do the number represent folks who sign choosing to accept certain portions of the contract while rejecting others?  Well, after making a few phone calls, I discovered this answer.  In order to gauge public opinion on what are the most important priorities, the organizers held a poll.  The top ten are what are listed here.  The percentages after each are the percent of the vote each won.  “Protecting the Constitution” was labeled the highest priority, while “Stopping the Tax Hikes”, although important, was the lowest concern of the top ten.

Second, I’m not too wild about point number seven.  Sure, I’d like to see federally run health care defunded and repealed, but replaced?  Replaced with what?  Something merely more cost efficient?  I do not believe that the federal government has any constitutional authority when it comes to the health care of its citizens.  Therefore, without additional details, I cannot support this particular plank.

If you will recall, back in 1994, Republicans captured control of Congress by uniting around a list of conservative principles and priorities.  Should they do so again, I would expect them to win a far greater percentage of seats.

Therefore, despite my one particular objection, I believe that this Contract From America is an important step in the right direction.  It may be a funny sounding name, but we need to get Washington under control and we must do so now.  As our former Governor and Senator states, “Only by listening to ‘We the People’ and returning to the foundational principles of freedom, personal responsibility and opportunity for all will America once again be the land of opportunity.”

Although I still need to learn more about this effort,  I certainly do appreciate their motivation and applaud George Allen for signing on to this project.

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Prior to today’s cloture vote on Senate Bill 1038, which would extend provisions of the Patriot Act, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky offered the following thoughts on the issue:

You should know that the cloture vote passed the Senate by a significant margin, 74-8.  The eight Senators who voted no are:  Max Baucus (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).  Will any other Senators vote against the measure once it comes to a full vote on the Senate floor?

But don’t worry!  If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear!  Right?

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Although fast tracking the renewal of several provisions of the Patriot Act proved to be unsuccessful, yesterday the House of Representatives voted to extend these constitutionally questionable powers.  The vote on H.R. 514 was 275 in favor, 144 against, and 14 not voting.  Although supporters of the Patriot Act claim that these provisions are a key tool in the fight against terrorism, they also strip away the rights and privacy of citizens.  In the wrong hands, I fear what sort of damage can be caused.

A few moments ago, I contacted my Representative, Bob Goodlatte, and my two Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner.  From Rep. Goodlatte, I hoped to get an explanation as to why he supported this bill.  From my Senators, I hoped to learn how they were planning to vote on this resolution.  As is typical, I was told I would be receiving a letter in the mail from Representative Goodlatte regarding this issue.  From Senators Webb and Warner, I got no real information other than assurances that my concern would be passed on to them.  Although I know that my Senators represent a whole lot more people than my Representative, is it too much to ask for a letter in reply?  Although I disagree with my Representative on this particular issue, I greatly appreciate his efforts to maintain contact with his constituents.  If only we had Senators who were as responsive as Goodlatte.  I hope Senator Webb’s replacement will be better.

Regarding this issue, earlier today Senator Paul of Kentucky released the following letter to his fellow Senators:

Dear Colleague:

James Otis argued against general warrants and writs of assistance that were issued by British soldiers without judicial review and that did not name the subject or items to be searched.

He condemned these general warrants as “the worst instrument[s] of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever w[ere] found in an English law book.”  Otis objected to these writs of assistance because they “placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.”  The Fourth Amendment was intended to guarantee that only judges—not soldiers or policemen—would issue warrants.  Otis’ battle against warrantless searches led to our Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable government intrusion.

My main objection to the PATRIOT Act is that searches that should require a judge’s warrant are performed with a letter from an FBI agent—a National Security Letter (“NSL”).

I object to these warrantless searches being performed on United States citizens.  I object to the 200,000 NSL searches that have been performed without a judge’s warrant.

I object to over 2 million searches of bank records, called Suspicious Activity Reports, performed on U.S. citizens without a judge’s warrant.

As February 28th approaches, with three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act set to expire, it is time to re-consider this question:  Do the many provisions of this bill, which were enacted in such haste after 9/11, have an actual basis in our Constitution, and are they even necessary to achieve valid law-enforcement goals?

The USA PATRIOT Act, passed in the wake of the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history, is no doubt well-intentioned.  However, rather than examine what went wrong, and fix the problems, Congress instead 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.

It is not acceptable to willfully ignore the most basic provisions of our Constitution—in this case—the Fourth and First Amendments—in the name of “security.”

For example, one of the three provisions set to expire on February 28th—the “library provision,” section 215 of the PATRIOT Act—allows the government to obtain records from a person or entity by making only the minimal showing of “relevance” to an international terrorism or espionage investigation.  This provision also imposes a year-long nondisclosure, or “gag” order. “Relevance” is a far cry from the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause.  Likewise, the “roving wiretap” provision, section 206 of the PATRIOT Act, which is also scheduled to expire on the 28th, does not comply with the Fourth Amendment.  This provision makes possible “John Doe roving wiretaps,” which do not require the government to name the target of the wiretap, nor to identify the specific place or facility to be monitored.  This bears an uncanny resemblance to the Writs of Assistance fought against by Otis and the American colonists.

Other provisions of the PATRIOT Act previously made permanent and not scheduled to expire present even greater concerns.  These include the use and abuse by the FBI of so-called National Security Letters.  These secret demand letters, which allow the government to obtain financial records and other sensitive information held by Internet Service Providers, banks, credit companies, and telephone carriers—all without appropriate judicial oversight—also impose a gag order on recipients.

NSL abuse has been and likely continues to be rampant.  The widely-circulated 2007 report issued by the Inspector General from the Department of Justice documents “widespread and serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities.  In many instances, the FBI’s misuse of national security letters violated NSL statutes, Attorney General Guidelines, or the FBI’s own internal policies.”  Another audit released in 2008 revealed similar abuses, including the fact that the FBI had issued inappropriate “blanket NSLs” that did not comply with FBI policy, and which allowed the FBI to obtain data on 3,860 telephone numbers by issuing only eleven “blanket NSLs.” The 2008 audit also confirmed that the FBI increasingly used NSLs to seek information on U.S. citizens.  From 2003 to 2006, almost 200,000 NSL requests were issued.  In 2006 alone, almost 60% of the 49,425 requests were issued specifically for investigations of U.S. citizens or legal aliens.

In addition, First Amendment advocates should be concerned about an especially troubling aspect of the 2008 audit, which documented a situation in which the FBI applied to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to obtain a section 215 order.  The Court denied the order on First Amendment grounds.  Not to be deterred, the FBI simply used an NSL to obtain the same information.

A recent report released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) entitled, “Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008,” documents further NSL abuse.  EFF estimates that, based on the proportion of violations reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board and the FBI’s own statements regarding NSL violations, the actual number of violations that may have occurred since 2001 could approach 40,000 violations of law, Executive Order, and other regulations.

Yet another troublesome (and now permanent) provision of the PATRIOT Act is the expansion of Suspicious Activity Reports.  Sections 356 and 359 expanded the types of financial institutions required to file reports under the Bank Secrecy Act.  The personal and account information required by the reports is turned over to the Treasury Department and the FBI.  In 2000, there were only 163,184 reports filed.  By 2007, this had increased to 1,250,439.  Again, as with NSLs, there is a complete lack of judicial oversight for SARs.

Finally, I wish to remind my colleagues that one of the many ironies of the rush to advance the PATRIOT Act following 9/11 is the well-documented fact that FBI incompetence caused the failure to search the computer of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui.  As FBI agent Coleen Rowley stated, “the FBI headquarters supervisory special agent handling the Moussaoui case ‘seemed to have been consistently almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents’ efforts” to meet the FISA standard for a search warrant, and therefore no request was ever made for a warrant.  Why, then, was the FBI rewarded with such expansive new powers in the aftermath of this institutional failure?

In the words of former Senator Russ Feingold, the only “no” vote against the original version of the PATRIOT Act,

“[T]here is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”

I call upon each of my Senate colleagues to seriously consider whether the time has come to re-evaluate many—if not all—provisions of the PATRIOT Act.  Our oath to uphold the Constitution demands it.

Sincerely,

Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator

So now fellow lovers of constitutionally constrained government, we must look to a Senate controlled by the Democrats to defeat this bill.  Like what was attempted in the House, they must find a coalition of liberals and conservatives to defeat the perhaps well meaning, but liberty-quashing middle.

Don’t misunderstand me, the government can and should protect the citizens against terrorism.  I’m just worried that in their zealous pursuit of this war on terror, liberty and the Constitution will fall by the wayside.  What I want to know is when will victory over terrorism be achieved?  Have we bound ourselves to a war without end?  Equally importantly, when, if ever, will the government willingly give up these Patriot Act powers?

After all, if we honestly believed that government could restrain and police itself, would the colonies ever have broken away from Great Britain?  Would this great nation even exist?  Furthermore, why would we need silly things like a Constitution?  Were our forefathers mistaken?  Or are we forgetting what it means to be free?

Fellow conservatives, I’ll end with a quote from our great former President, Ronald Reagan.  “Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.”  So do these provisions of the Patriot Act protect our rights or do they take them away?

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Today, members of the House of Representatives got a chance to vote on whether or not to extend some of the most onerous provisions of the Patriot Act.  Yesterday, I called my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), to ask how he was planning to vote on this issue.  His Washington office did not have an answer at that time and so I encouraged him to vote no.  As Benjamin Franklin once said (and I have quoted several times), “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” -Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin.  This so-called “Patriot Act” is the modern manifestation of this struggle.  In our great desire for security, would we give up our freedoms and the rule of law, that which separates us from the despotic nations and peoples who attacked us on September 11th?  Unfortunately, we failed that great test back in 2001 when the Patriot Act originally passed and then again in 2005/2006 when many of the provisions were extended the first time.

As the dust settled today, the final vote in the House was 277 in favor, 148 opposed, and 9 nonvoting.  Given that the bill required a 2/3rds majority to pass, it has been defeated…at least for now.  I was disappointed to see that a vast majority of Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, voted in favor of this bill.  In fact, only two of Virginia’s eleven Representatives voted against the bill:  Bobby Scott (VA-3) and Jim Moran (VA-8).  I’m starting to wonder if the Tea Party’s call for limited and constitutional government has fallen on deaf ears.  Will most of the newly elected Representatives and Senators support big government business as usual?

Prior to the vote, several members spoke out in opposition to renewal.  I submit to you the words of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (TX-14) and Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

Update: Senator Rand Paul (KY) now shares his opinion this topic.

Lastly, I’d like to share one more video.  Several years ago, Judge Napolitano offered his thoughts on the Patriot Act.  In short, his opinion is that it was passed in Congress in too great of haste and erodes our Constitution and our liberty.  Watch and see if you agree.

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Today, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky gave his first speech on the Senate floor.  In it, he recalls the actions and attitudes of two Kentuckians, The Great Compromiser Henry Clay, and his less well-known cousin, Cassius Clay.  Paul encourages the listener to ponder the following thought; is it better to compromise and achieve greater success or is it better to stand firm to your principles?

Again as this speech highlights, Senator Paul stands for so many important principles like: liberty, fiscal responsibility and Constitutional restraint.  As I’ve said multiple times, I believe that in order to achieve any real reform in this nation, we must elect more leaders like Senator Paul and his father.  Compromise is sometimes needed, but we must never compromise our cherished ideals for the sake of petty political power and selfishness.

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