LETTER TO THE EDITOR – An amendment to end the NSA’s warrantless spying failed 217-205 this past week. I am filled with a terrible sadness. Can there be a more cut and dried test of the loyalty of our representatives to the Bill of Rights and to us citizens?
It was black and white. Either due process prevailed in the form of warrants for targeted investigations, or each of our lives is on NSA display – the monitors in every home depicted in “1984” brought to life. Either we were protected from “the quartering of soldiers in our homes,” per the 3rd amendment, or we weren’t? Either we have the freedom of association, of speech, of assembly without our every communication collected and our every association, speech, assembly documented, or we don’t.
Does it not matter? It does. Gravely. As NYU professor Danah Boyd said in an essay on why “good, innocent citizens” should care, “That’s the funny thing about how data is used by our current government. It’s used to create suspicion, not to confirm innocence.”
There are actually two good things to come from this. One positive is that 205 representatives did stand up for what is right in this case – or at least gave in to the pressure to do what is right, whatever other pressure must be on them to strengthen the omnivorous creature of government.
I truly am grateful for the 205 and for the hope that brings that there could be improvement. After all, only three representatives voted against making freedoms of speech and assembly a felony around fed officials just a year ago (HR 347 –those three voters were the sponsor of this amendment, Justin Amash, MI; Ron Paul, TX, Paul Broun, GA).
The other positive is that a line was drawn. Each of us gains some clarity on who our representative really is. Of course, one vote does not tell the whole story; patterns emerge through the votes we track over time; some these reps really messed up on CISPA. But in this case, the vote was one simple, single, isolated, clear issue. As we wrote to our Loyal9.org members calling for all of our voices to combine in support of this amendment: “There is no hiding this time for the reps behind such lines as ‘I had to vote that way for the bill overall’ or ‘It’s a complex issue, and maybe it’s not the perfect solution, but we can fix it later’ or ‘I didn’t have time to read it.'”
This was one page. It did one thing. It said that the NSA could not mass surveil. Investigators must have a warrant for a targeted subject, that due process must be followed. It says the constitution must be followed. This is not something that should be necessary, of course. Since when does it take a law to say, “Yes, let’s follow the constitution on this one.” Yet, 217 representatives voted against it: “No. unh huh. Constitution schmonstitution.”
Those that voted against this amendment have no ground to stand on. Their explanations were pathetic and, in fact, highlight their own awareness of what they have done — their corruption in this process.
They said this amendment was a “blunt process” that made too many big changes. It is clear to seventh grade reader this is not the case. They said the process was too fast, not transparent enough. Huh? Wha? These are the same people that forth a thousand page bill on Friday and demand a vote on Monday?
They said the AMENDMENT isn’t constitutional. I can’t tell by this point if they are more guilty of treachery, stupidity, or absolute arrogance to think we are so stupid. They said this aids the terrorist and endangers us by taking away a valuable tool. Sponsor Amash points out that with billions of records and billions of dollars spent, the NSA nabbed one cab driver who had sent money to Somalia to a group that proved to be non-threatening.
Of course Benjamin Franklin said it best. “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Submitted by: Josh Jaskson, Santa Clara, Utah
Ed. Note: House Amendment 413 (Amash) to H.R. 2397 – “To end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. It would also bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records …,” according to GovTrak.us. Utah Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart voted aye, for the amendment; Rep. Jim Matheson voted no, against the amendment.
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