Deadline Looms for Patriot Act

A patriot act of courage…

In a few days, we commemorate the 71st anniversary of the WWII Normandy landings known as “D-day”.  On that day, thousands of Americans risked all so our rights here at home would not be lost to an evil adversary who would have done away with them.  Today marks another “D-Day” of sorts, a day not nearly as dramatic or dangerous, but one that will require some of our fellow Americans to show courage and a willingness to sacrifice themselves for our rights.  100 of our fellow Americans to be exact.  They will do battle today, not on some far off beach, but on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is due to expire on Monday, June 1st. It allows for the bulk collection of data, all without a warrant describing the specific persons, places, and things to be searched as required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. It would seem a straight-forward proposition, drop or amend Section 215 and restore our constitutional right to privacy.  I, Rand Paul, and many others would have it that way, but I am not naive, the senators are making a political calculation.  They know that if they let the sun set on Section 215 and there is a terrorist attack, they probably will face a severe penalty at the polls.  If they renew 215 and if no major attack occurs, they will risk losing the libertarian vote, something Republicans in particular can ill afford. That’s where the courage comes in.

Those who would trade liberty for security should get neither
Ben Franklin knew there’d be times like these.

There is a middle ground of sorts, it’s called the U.S.A. Freedom Act and has already been passed by Congress.  It still allows for mass collection of data, not by the Government, but by the phone companies.  It’s still an abridgment of our Fourth amendment rights, but a somewhat less egregious one.  It may have one advantage in that it would not drive the mass collection of data underground, as surely would happen if 215 were to go away en toto.

Today the Senate has a choice:  Keep the status quo in the name of security, or go with at least modest protections of our Constitutional rights.  Risk the ire of Americans in general if they fail to act at all and we’re attacked, or risk facing the ire of Libertarians and Constitutionalist Conservatives for not looking out for our rights.  Will we have a small window into the working of our intelligence agencies with regards to data collection, or none at all?

We’re not asking our Senate to show the kind of courage it took for our soldiers to take Omaha Beach nearly 71 years ago, we’re just asking them to risk their political lives, which for many politicians is almost as scary.  It would be a risk they would be making for our freedom and our Constitution, a risk that all Americans will ultimately share together.

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