This is it. We have less than 8 hours to get the attention of Congress and demand that they stand up for the restoration of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
Although the renewal of key provisions of the PATRIOT Act was defeated last week when it was brought up for an early vote, that happened primarily because House rules required that it pass by a two-thirds majority under those circumstances. That narrow defeat of the renewal was only a temporary victory, because the bill remained eligible for passage under the regular rules and with a simple majority vote, and that vote is scheduled for this evening at 6:30. It’s the only bill on the House docket and there will be only 1 hour for formal debate and no amendments.
This means that most of this day will be dedicated to giving you an opportunity to contact your Congressman and tell him that you like having privacy rights, don’t want the government monitoring your internet and phone conversations, and think that search warrants obtained through proper procedures are a good thing, not an inconvenience.
Three key sections of the PATRIOT Act are up for renewal. They provide for roving wiretaps without true search warrants, government access to private business records, searches of private property without notice and covert access to electronic data without any due process or oversight. Together they give the government unprecedented access to your private information without going through the Constitutionally mandated legal processes which are supposed to protect your privacy.
They were passed with a requirement that they be reviewed and renewed regularly because at the time the Congress realized that they were fundamental attacks on individual liberty and violations of our Constitutionally protected rights under the 4th Amendment. The mood at the time was one of fear and anger and some people felt that the threat of terrorism justified such extreme measures. Today you need to ask yourself whether this dreadful compromise of your rights on the basis of nothing but fear was justifiable.
Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) expressed his concerns about renewing these PATRIOT Act provisions when he voted against them last week, writing:
“Like many Republicans and Democrats concerned with protecting civil liberties, I have serious reservations about the USA PATRIOT Act provisions up for renewal. The business records provision allows the government to order the production of ‘any tangible things’ — e-mails, phone logs, and even library records. Worse still, the company turning over the records to the government is forbidden from telling the records’ owner of the order. Likewise, the Act’s roving wiretap provision goes far beyond a similar provision in criminal law. It may allow the government continuously to monitor pay phones or public computers, even when a suspect is not using the devices. The breadth of the provisions raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns in my mind, and I cannot support them as currently written.”
The Bill of Rights exists for a reason and it has become clear that there is no threat to this nation from terrorism or other sources which justifies giving up the protections of the 4th Amendment. The only real target of this misguided legislation seems to be the citizens themselves, and that kind of government meddling and intrusion is unacceptable in a free society.
You only have hours to act. Please call your member of Congress, or your whole state delegation, using the convenient information at ContactingtheCongress.org. Tell them it’s been long enough and you want your rights back.