Domestic Spying Controversy Comes To New Jersey
Thursday, Congressman Ted Lieu posed an interesting question on Twitter: "What happens if the Patriot Act expires?" He wasn't trying to panic anyone; he was trying to reassure everyone: "Americans start getting our Fourth Amendment rights back."
Utah Tea Party radical Mike Lee is leading the fight in the Senate to reform that horribly flawed legislation so hated by Americans of all political flavors. The law expires on Memorial Day, which will force the NSA-- if they follow the law (a ridiculous assumption)-- to stop its unconstitutional bulk spying on American citizens, which both Lee and Lieu would like to see happen.
Jerry Nadler, (D-NY), Congress' most knowledgable constitutional law expert, said he's happy to see the Patriot Act sunset this weekend, even though he's a cosponsor of the bill to replace it, the USA Freedom Act. "It’s fine with me. I’d rather they pass the USA Freedom Act, but I can live with sunsetting." Sunsetting is also the option libertarian Republicans are backing, especially Justin Amash (R-MI), who is the most active force in the House among Republicans against renewal.
National security state backers in both parties-- and that includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who walked away with a handsome $185,550 in legalistic bribes from the military-industrial complex last year alone-- are running around with their hair on fire shrieking about ISIS taking over South Carolina. The Senate doesn't like working on Fridays, let alone on weekends, but McConnell is forcing the chamber to stay in session today to vote on the USA Freedom Act, which already passed the House 338-88, and on a two-month extension to the Patriot Act. Most House progressives voted NO May 13, and they were joined by 47 Republicans who prefer to shut the whole domestic spying operation down.
Among the progressives who voted against it were Alan Grayson (D-FL), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). Most of the incumbents Blue America is targeting for defeat in 2016 voted for the bill, including reactionary New Dem Patrick Murphy (FL), corrupt transactional machine candidate Donald Norcross (NJ), the heinous Steve Israel (NY) and reactionary Blue Dog Dan Lipinski (IL), 4 shameless pawns of the military-industrial complex lobbyists, as well as Republican warmongers like Dave Reichert (R-WA), Peter King (R-NY), DCCC-protected Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Fred Upton (R-MI), John Kline (MN), and the 3 most vulnerable California Republicans, Steve Knight, Jeff Denham and David Valadao.
This week, a desperate Chris Christie, who is finding himself being taken less and less seriously by Republican primary voters, stepped right in the mess, blurting out, "You can't enjoy your civil liberties if you're in a coffin," infuriating Senator Lee, who went on CNN to say Christie "should be ashamed of himself" and to accuse him of "political pornography." Lee said, "That's absolutely ridiculous. It's absurd. And if Mr. Christie wants to play a part in the national discussion regarding privacy and security, he should choose his words more carefully.... I would ask Mr. Christie, how many lives has it saved? I would ask Mr. Christie, how many acts of terrorism have been thwarted simply because the NSA is collecting telephone data on what your grandmother calls-- on calls that she makes or calls that she receives?"
The spat between Utah’s junior senator and Christie, a 2016 presidential hopeful, is the latest example of Republican-on-Republican feuding over the future of the controversial law which was originally passed in the wake of 9/11.Barbara Lee, the only Member of Congress at the time to possess the foresight and moral courage to have voted against Bush's illegal attack on Afghanistan, sees it differently from Lee. She's aware that the USA Freedom Act is better than the Patriot Act but she voted against it: "The USA Freedom Act that passed last week takes some good steps toward reigning in domestic spying, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting Americans’ civil liberties. I’m committed to fighting for stronger protections. That's why I’m supporting the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which would do exactly what it says-- repeal the Patriot Act."
On Wednesday another 2016 Republican contender, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), spent 10½ hours on the Senate floor voicing his opposition to bulk surveillance of American citizens’ so-called metadata.
Lee has not drawn a hard line against all data collection and instead has backed an alternative called the USA Freedom Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week with a large bipartisan majority. The USA Freedom Act aims to limit bulk collection of metadata about American citizens, as well as mandate more transparency about court decisions relating to surveillance.
Paul has said that he does not believe the USA Freedom Act goes far enough, while Lee has joined Democratic colleagues like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in supporting it.
“I’m not saying that we ought to let [the PATRIOT Act] expire,” Lee told CNN. “I’m saying that there’s a middle ground and the USA Freedom Act accomplishes that.”
“Instead of collecting everyone’s phone records simply because they exist, the NSA ought to be focused on collecting those phone records that are connected in some way with a phone number that’s involved in a terrorism ring.”
And she's far from alone in those sentiments. Blue America has endorsed Alex Law for the South Jersey seat occupied by pro-war ConservaDem Donald Norcross. This morning, Law told us that he's not buying into the hype either.
"As progressives we must oppose this extension. I am a millennial, and my generation has grown up in a post-911 world where it seems almost commonplace that the government has the authority to monitor us. We have grown to have less expectations of privacy, and, by extension, liberty. All of this has been sold to us as the cost of security, but that narrative is flawed and manipulative. There has to be a way for the strongest, wealthiest, most creative nation in the world to secure ourselves without sacrificing the liberties that make America so great.Blue America candidates like Alex Law favor peace over war. If you'd like to help elect them to Congress... there's an ActBlue page just for that. There is no contribution too small.
It is no surprise to me that my primary opponent, Donald Norcross, one of the more conservative Dems in the House, voted for the extension of NSA power. However, other members of the New Jersey delegation that I am fighting to join like Frank Pallone and Bonnie Watson Coleman voted against the Freedom Act. They are two people I admire and respect as examples of true progressive leaders. Our founders envisioned the debate we are currently having as a threat to our future. Benjamin Franklin commented on it saying, "Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." In this new age of technology, we would be wise to heed that advice.
UPDATE: House Domestic Spying Extension Fails In Senate
Just after midnight-- and on a Friday; the Senate almost never votes on Fridays, like maybe once a year-- the Senate refused to shut down the deficit filibuster on a motion to proceed to debate the USA Freedom Act, which would have allowed for some of the unconstitutional activities that make up the NSA's domestic spying regime. The motion needed 60 votes (3/5) and it wound up at 57-42. A dozen Republicans, including extremists likeTed Cruz (TX), Jim Lankford (OK), Cory Gardner (CO), Mike Lee (UT), and Dan Sullivan (AK) voted with the Democrats. It had passed the House 338-88 with a very different political dynamic.
Military Industrial Complex shill Dianne Feinstein was a top shill for the bill: "I've taken a good look at this. For those who want reform and want to prevent the government from holding the data, the Freedom Act is the only way to do it. The House has passed it, the president wants it. All of the intelligence personnel have agreed to it, and I think not to pass that bill is really to throw the whole program, that whole section 215 as well as the whole business records, the lone wolf, the roving wiretaps into serious legal jeopardy." Enough senators saw through her bullshit to allow the USA Freedom Act to die. "This is a debate," explained Rand Paul, "about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all the records, all of the phone records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant. Our forefathers would be aghast." The PATRIOT Act expires June 1. McConnell says the Senate will return from it's Memorial Day break a day early to try to pass a bill to allow the NSA to continue its unconstitutional domestic spying agenda. He tried some scare tactics: "This is a high threat period and we know what's going on overseas. We know what's been tried here at home. My colleagues-- do we really want this law to expire? We got a week to discuss it. We'll have one day to do it."