After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration pushed through major legislation which granted too much power to the federal government and curtailed the rights of law abiding Americans. The Department of Homeland Security, a bureaucratic monstrosity, was created after the worst terrorist attack on American soil. This monolithic bureaucracy duplicated functions already being performed in other branches of government. It was created to supposedly coordinate the activities of our federal government in fighting threats, like terrorism and natural disasters like hurricanes. Yet, the department has never lived up to its billing and has basically been a major cesspool of government jobs. In a critical test, Hurricane Katrina, the department failed miserably. While there have been no major terrorist attacks in this country since 9/11, security breakdowns occur regularly. It is proven to be practically impossible to coordinate the activities of such a governmental leviathan with similar departments on the local and state levels.
While the Department of Homeland Security has increased the size of the federal government, the Patriot Act has dramatically increased the scope of government intrusion into the lives of average Americans. Supposedly, the Patriot Act was needed after the 9/11 attacks. The legislation gives our “friends” in the federal government a greater ability to monitor the activities of law abiding citizens. The legislation was crafted by the Bush administration and now the extension is being supported by both the Obama administration and the GOP House leadership.
Last week, principled Democrats and Tea Party Republicans worked to block the ten month legislation of the Patriot Act, which at the time needed a two-thirds vote to pass. On Monday, the Patriot Act extension was reworked into legislation needing only a majority vote to pass. The extension passed by a 275-144 vote. Sadly, only 27 Republicans voted to stop this dangerous extension of government power. Even worse, the House Republican leadership wants to extend the Patriot Act permanently. A vote in the Senate expected soon, but there is little doubt some sort of extension will be passed.
The Patriot Act is clearly an expansive way for the federal government to pry into the lives of average citizens, all in the name of fighting terrorism. The extension will allow the federal government the ability to review documents, examine records, conduct surveillance, wire tap phone calls, and scrutinize email correspondence. Supposedly, the focus will be “terrorist” suspects; however, these powers could be easily used to spy on average Americans.
If the federal government could be trusted, such an extension might be more acceptable; however, Americans know that our government has not earned our trust. These new powers are also unnecessary. If the pre 9/11 security network had worked properly, the attacks would never have occurred. Today, Americans do not need the Patriot Act; they just need the existing security mechanisms to function properly.
Every year, our federal government is given more of a “security” budget and more powers to eavesdrop on conversations through wiretapping, spy using mobile video vans and hijack email correspondence.
Together, these powers are not consistent with the visions of limited government that was preached by the Founding Fathers. The Patriot Act is a threat to the freedom of law abiding Americans and can be easily abused by an adversarial federal government.
By approving this misguided extension, the House Republicans have confirmed once again that they cannot be trusted to scale back government. The majority of Republicans continue to support a robust and ever growing federal bureaucracy, which is opposed by the vast majority of Americans.
Republicans need to follow the clear will of the American people that was loudly expressed in the mid-term elections. Instead, a politics as usual mentality has now beset the GOP, which is a slap in the face to the millions of tea party activists who were responsible for the GOP victories last November.
Once again, the majority of congressional Republicans have followed the party bigwigs and bureaucrats instead of the American people. It indicates that voters will not see real change, but more of the same.
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Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].