There’s been a lot of discussion of the PATRIOT Act, and we’re told basically we wouldn’t be able to capture these terrorists if we didn’t give up some of our liberties; if we didn’t give up some of the Fourth Amendment and allow it to be easier for the police to come into our homes.
We were so frightened after 9/11 that we readily gave up these freedoms.
We said, well, the Fourth Amendment is not that important. We’ll just let the government look at all of our records and we’ll make it easier for the government to look at our records.
The question you have to ask, though, is whether or not we would still be able to catch terrorists by using the Fourth Amendment as it was intended, and having the protections of the Fourth Amendment.
What you have to ask yourself is think about the worst person in your community. Think about someone accused of murder or rape or a pedophile.
You think of these people; do you know what happens if someone is accused of that?
Even if it’s 3:00 in the morning and they want to get their records or they want to go into their house, they call a judge. This is something very important.
They get the warrants almost all the time. But it’s one step of protection. What you have is the protection where you don’t have police officers writing warrants to come into your house. You have to have it reviewed by a judge.
What we’ve done to the PATRIOT Act is taken away some of the protections of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment says you need to name the person and the place to be searched.
We’ve taken away those protections.
The Fourth Amendment says you need to have probable cause. We’ve taken away those and made it to where it, if it’s relevant or they think they might be related to it.
Originally the FISA court lowered the standard somewhat on the Fourth Amendment, but it recognized that it was lowering the standard and was careful.
We had secret courts set up and the FISA court was the court that dealt with things that had to do with national security or terrorism or intelligence.
The information was kept secret so we didn’t let everybody in the world know the name but the name had to be divulged to the judges.
Those who argue you have to have the PATRIOT Act, to do this or we will not be able to stop terrorism, they need to explain why the FISA court did tens of thousands of search warrants and never turned any down.
In fact, the history before the PATRIOT Act was no search warrant had ever been turned down.
Do we really want to give up our liberties in exchange for more security?
Franklin said those who give up liberty in exchange for security may end up with neither.
Right now if you have a Visa bill that’s over $5,000 and you choose to pay for it over the phone which is a wire transfer, the government is probably looking at your Visa bill.
They don’t have to show probable cause and they don’t have to have a judge’s warrant. And this does apply to U.S. citizens. Often they’ll tell you it’s only foreign terrorists we’re looking at.
They want you to feel good about allowing the spying, but this spying is going on by the tens of thousands and even by the millions.
With regard to these suspicious activity reports, we’ve done over 4 million of them in the last 10 years.
We’re now doing over a million a year.
These suspicious activity reports, all the trigger is you don’t have to have anything to do with terrorism.
The trigger is you have over $5,000 that you transfer by bank account.
You say, well, the courts have decided that your bank records aren’t private.
Well, the hell they aren’t. They should be private.
My Visa records, if you look at my Visa records, you can tell whether I go to the doctor, what kind of doctor I go to. You can conceivably tell what kind of medication I’m on. You can tell what kind of magazines I read. You can tell what kind of books I order from amazon.
Do we want a government that looks at our Visa bill?
Do we want a government that looks at our records and is finding out what our reading habits are. One of the provisions apply to library records. Do you want the government to find out what you’re reading at the library?
We now have a president that wants to know where you contributed before you do work for the government. Do we want that kind of all-encompassing government that is looking at every record from top to bottom and invading our privacy?
There is another aspect of this called national security letters. These are basically warrants that are written by FBI Agents. No judge reviews them. This is specifically what James Otis was worried about when he talked about general warrants that weren’t specifying the person or the place and that were written by police officers. And this is a problem because really this is — we depend on the checks and balances in our society.
We never want to give all the authority to either one group of congress or to the president or to police or judges. We have checks and balances to approve — to try to prevent abuse.
Now, some have said, well, if you have nothing to hide, why do you care?
Well, the thing is that it will not always be angels that are in charge of government. You have rules because you want to prevent the day that may occur when you get someone who takes over your government through elected office or otherwise who really is intent on using the tools of government to pry into your affairs, to snoop on what you’re doing, to punish you for your political or religious beliefs.
That’s why we don’t ever want to let the law become so expansive. But the thing is you have to realize that you can still get terrorists. We get rapists and murderers every day by calling a judge. That’s what I’m asking for.
I’m asking that we go through and obey the Fourth Amendment.
Many conservatives argue that well they love the second amendment. Some liberals say they love to be able to protect the first amendment. If you don’t protect the entire bill of rights, you’re not going to have any of it.
If you want to protect your right to own a gun, you need to protect your gun records from the government looking at your gun records and finding out whether you’ve been buying a gun at a gun show.
You need to protect your privacy. If you want to protect the first amendment, you’ve got to have the Fourth Amendment.
In fact, we specifically had to go back there.
The original PATRIOT act said that you couldn’t even consult with your attorney. You couldn’t even tell your attorney — you were gagged from telling your attorney.
Even now, though, you say I don’t know if they’ve investigated me. You know why? Because they tell your phone company if they’re looking at your phone records right now or your Visa records, it’s against the law for Visa or the phone company to tell you that.
It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines and jail time. It’s five years in jail if your phone company tells you they have been spying on you.
Now, some of this doesn’t even require a letter from government. Some of it is done by the banks. The suspicious activity reports, we have simply told the bank here, anybody that deals in cash, anybody that has over a $5,000 transfer, wire transfer or who deals in large amounts of money, the bank — it’s incumbent upon the bank to spy on their customers now.
This is a real problem, and I think that we need to have some argument and debate in our country over these things.
Some want to have these things permanently. They want to permanently give up their Fourth Amendment protections, and I disagree strongly.
Not only would let these expire, but I think we really should sunset the entire PATRIOT Act and protect our liberties the way it was intended by our founding fathers.
James Otis was an attorney in Boston, and he wrote about these things they called in those days writs of assistance. These were general warrants. The king would write them, or actually they were written by soldiers here. They didn’t name the person to be searched or the place, and they were used as a way to have the king have his way with the people and to bully the people.
The idea of general warrants is what really sorely offended our founding fathers. That’s why we got the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment was the product of a decade or more of James Otis arguing cases against the British government. But the question you have to ask yourself when thinking about these issues is it’s not so simple that you can just say well, I’m either against terrorism or I’m going to let terrorists run wild and take over the country.
You can be opposed to terrorists. We can go after terrorists. We can go after murderers and rapists and people who commit crimes, but we can do it with a process that protects the innocent.
You know, we — we looked at — I think so far they say we have looked at 28 million electronic records. We have looked at 1,600,000 text messages, and we have 800,000 hours of audio. We have so much audio that they can’t even listen to it all. Twenty-five percent what they have recorded of your phone conversations is not listened to because they don’t even have time to listen to it.
My point would be that we’re eavesdropping on so many people that it could be that we are missing out and not targeting. It’s just like the airports. Every one of you is being searched in the airport and you’re not terrorists and you’re no threat to our country.
Why are we not looking for the people who would attack us and spending time on those people? Why do we not go to a judge and say this person we suspect of dealing with this terrorist group, will you give us a warrant? Why don’t we have those steps?
Instead, we’re mining and going through millions of records, and I think we’re overwhelmed so much with the records that we may well be doing less of a good job with terrorism because we’re looking at everyone’s records.
But the bottom line is I don’t want to live in a country where we give up our freedoms, our privacy. I don’t want to live in a country that loses its constitutional protections that protect us as individuals.
We do have a right to privacy. You have a right not to have the government reading your Visa bill every month. We do have rights and we should protect these, but we shouldn’t be so fearful that we say well, I’m a good person, I don’t care, just look at my records.
If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a day when there will be a tyranny, when there will be a despot who comes into power in the United States and who uses those rules that you said oh, I don’t have anything to hide.
What happens when someone takes over who believes that your religion is — is to be combated, who believes that your political beliefs and your literature should be combated? What happens when that day comes?
We cannot give up our liberty. If we do, if we trade it for security, we’ll have neither.
So I rise in opposition to the vote on cloture.
I will be introducing amendments to the PATRIOT Act this week, and we will be having a real debate about how we can stop terrorism but also preserve freedom at the same time.