Patriot Act runs roughshod over constitutional rights | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Patriot Act runs roughshod over constitutional rights

Kirk Caraway

You can always tell when there is an election coming up by the sounds of reasoned principles shattering as our elected representatives throw rocks through them in order to install the proper window dressings for their campaigns.

There was a lopsided vote in Congress last week to renew the Patriot Act, as most senators rushed to prop up their get-tough-on-terror credentials, afraid someone might label them as weak.

The Patriot Act, for those who have been hunkered down for the last four years, was the hastily approved post-9/11 legislation so odious in its respect for constitutional freedoms that the city of Elko – no bastion of liberalism – passed a resolution opposing it.

Guess the members of Elko’s City Council aren’t worried about people calling them spineless cowards. Maybe they should run for Congress.

My favorite quote from this recent debate came from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ken.): “Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead.”

Just kind of takes your breath away.

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It stands in contrast to the most famous American quote on the subject, by Patrick Henry in 1775: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I must disagree with the core of Bunning’s statement. Civil liberties meant a lot to those patriots who died to give them to us, and the many more who died, and are dying still in their defense.

But more important is the difference in message between these two statements. One comes from strength, the other from fear. Which would you rather base national policy on in a time of war?

Americans don’t roll up in a ball the first time some bully pushes us. We don’t throw away what we fought for at the first sign of trouble. And if Bunning doesn’t realize this, then he has no business being a senator.

President Bush said we were attacked on 9/11 because of our freedoms. Yet to throw those same freedoms away is like kicking the ball into our own goal and calling it progress. That’s not a winning game plan. It does seem better than our game plan in Iraq, but that’s another story.

Why is the Patriot Act getting so much attention, while the security of our borders is neglected? Wouldn’t it be more fruitful for Congress to be working on issues related to the holes in our first line of defense?

How many terrorists crossed over the border today? I know, it’s hard to count them among all those illegal aliens flowing across at the same time.

How many bombs were shipped in through our barely guarded ports this week? Is this the day that an instant of blinding light solves the gridlock problem in New York City once and for all?

If we can’t do the basic things like protecting our borders, then it is criminal to waste time talking about snooping into our library records.

I can’t help but despair over how meaningless this debate over the Patriot Act is. If you care to believe what Bush says about his executive powers, according to his rationale on the once-secret National Security Agency spying program, the president has powers under Article II of the Constitution to overrule laws and even run roughshod over the Bill of Rights in the interest of national security.

In other words, he don’t need no stinkin’ Patriot Act.

This vote to renew the Patriot Act was a ridiculous act of legislative masturbation. Hope they enjoyed themselves.

Just remember to thank your senators and congressmen for help keeping America safe come election time.

– Kirk Caraway is Internet editor at the Carson City Nevada Appeal.