Our Government’s Growing Disregard for the 4th Amendment
The Amash – Conyers Ammendment
An Unusual Alliance
By Scott Rohter, July 2013 – Updated May 2014
The 4th Amendment states in part, “The Right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…” It does not say that it might be violated whenever the White House thinks that it should be violated, or that it can be violated under certain circumstances with an order from a FISA Court. There are enough willful, indiscriminate violations of the 4th Amendment going on in our country right now to make even Russia’s Vladimir “Ras-Putin” blush and prompt the Kremlin to issue a public apology on behalf of the KGB for providing the official role model for our NSA. America is not living up to its reputation as the land of the free anymore, and about the only brave that are left here at home seem to be those politicians who have enough bravado or chutzpah to routinely and regularly violate our Constitution and the Bill of Rights with apparent impunity. The rest of the brave are overseas fighting wars that should have been over by now.
What the hell is the matter with some of the people that we elect and send to Washington to represent us? Do they even know who or what we should actually be afraid of and what we need to be secure from? It’s not a bunch of bearded old men in dirty robes hiding in some faraway cave in south-eastern Afghanistan. It is actually clean shaven domestic culprits in Washington who are wearing designer suits. They are working the halls of Congress and plotting to destroy many of what’s left of our civil liberties!
Some time ago there was a vote in Congress on an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill. It was called the Amash – Conyers Amendment. It was an unusual alliance between a brash young Republican and an old time Democrat. Justin Amash is a young Republican Congressman from Michigan, and John Conyers is one of the typical old style Democrats in Congress from the same state. They normally do not agree on much of anything, but they did agree to co-sponsor this amendment. The Amash – Conyers Amendment sought to scale back some of the excessive monitoring and electronic data collecting activities of the NSA that have steadily and insidiously been committed by that agency since 9/11, ever since the passage of the Patriot Act. This is the type of alliance that serves our country well. I would like to see more of these kind of across the aisle alliances.
It was a close vote. The roll call was 217 to 205, but unfortunately the Amendment to prohibit the routine surveillance of all Americans and the transfer of your phone records even when you are not the subject of a terrorist investigation or the object of a FISA Court order was narrowly defeated. Some of the more notable members of Congress who basically voted to continue the current practice of mass telephone surveillance of all American citizens are Michele Bachman from Minnesota, Steven King from Iowa, Peter King from New York, Greg Walden from Oregon, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, Eric Canter from Virginia, and John “Bonehead” Boehner from Ohio. Congressmen Boehner, Canter, Walden and Ryan are all members of the House Republican leadership.
On the other side of this important issue there were some real American patriots who voted to end this practice of mass surveillance of American citizens by the NSA. Some of the more notable members of Congress who voted to stop this infringement of our 4th Amendment Rights are Republican Congressman Louie Ghomert of Texas, Republican Tom McClintock of California, Democrat Peter De Fazio of Oregon, Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, and Democrat John Conyers of Michigant. The vote on this amendment went across Party lines and it surprised many people, myself included.
The Obama Administration lobbied hard to defeat the Amash – Conyers Amendment which targeted Section 215 of the Patriot Act and had an enforcement mechanism and a defunding provision for these unlawful activities of the NSA, but in the end the President had his way. He won. An alternative amendment called the Pompano Amendment which is a much weaker attempt at regulating the National Security Agency did pass afterwards by a voice vote. It merely reiterates the principle that non-suspect Americans are not supposed to be targeted by surveillance activities. It targets a different section of the Patriot Act, specifically section 702. It does not have a defunding provision and there is no enforcement mechanism. This basically leaves the indiscriminate routine telephone surveillance practices of the NSA intact and unaffected by any Congressional oversight.
One of the original writers of the Patriot Act is Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. As head of the committee that drafted the Patriot Act he probably knows it better than most, and he has a better understanding of what that particular legislation was supposed to do than most other Congressmen. Yesterday he voted Yes on the Amash – Conyers Amendment to curtail the growing, unlawful activities of the NSA. He voted to scale back its excessive monitoring and data collecting capabilities. He voted to prohibit the National Security Administration from indiscriminately monitoring American citizens who are neither the subjects of a terrorist investigation or a FISA Court order. “This is no longer the law that I wrote”, Congressman Sensenbrenner said of the Patriot Act. Congressman David Schweikert of Kansas also agrees with him. He said the Patriot Act has become, “an open season to fish in constitutionally prohibited waters”.
Collecting unnecessary phone company data about telephone customers who are lawful American citizens and not the subjects of any terrorist investigation is absolutely wrong. It goes beyond the original intent of the Patriot Act. After the defeat of the Amash – Conyers Amendment then both Congressman David Schweikert and James Sensenbrenner as well as everyone else who backed the stronger Amash – Conyers Amendment voted yes on the Pompano Amendment in a voice vote.
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