They were the first, through the persistent and persuasive arguments of Dr. Ron Paul and now Rand Paul, to bring civil liberties to the forefront of the political discussion and make it a competing priority in the Republican Party.
After 9/11 most people were living in fear of terrorists and ignorance of our government. We thought we could trust our government and wanted to believe they would never abuse the powers we had extended to them (think IRS/Tea Party abuse to quickly dispel this naive notion). Over the last 12 years, Dr. Paul and our libertarian allies have spoken so strongly on the importance of civil liberties that if often conjured up in your mind the quote from Benjamin Franklin:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
According to the Washington Times the original USA Freedom Act legislation,
tries to prevent any request for bulk data. It changes the Patriot Act and seeks to make clear that the administration cannot use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or presidential executive orders to try to restart the programs.
Unfortunately, while the victory in the House was overwhelming, Obama and select legislators diluted the bill in a way that some civil liberty advocates could not swallow. The Times stated that,
The White House did manage to dilute the bill to the point where a number of civil liberties groups withdrew their support.
As originally written, the bill would have installed an independent advocate on the secret court that approves surveillance programs. The rewritten bill excluded that provision.
The most controversial change was selection criteria the NSA can use for queries that are still allowed.
It looks like many of the Democrats in the Senate are not happy with Obama’s changes either, so perhaps there is still hope in getting it through. There is talk that the Senate will try and pass the original pre-diluted USA Freedom Act bill.
The fact that changes are being proposed and made to the Patriot Act is a victory for Dr. Paul and libertarians (despite the major revisions to the bill), because it demonstrates they are a forceful and persuasive voice in American politics. Of course, while the revelations by Edward Snowden also helped shine a massive spotlight on the problem, it was the Ron Paul libertarians who created an intolerant populist environment for these civil liberty infractions.
Even more remarkable, libertarians have been extremely successful at building bi-partisan support for our civil liberties. My case in point? Republican Virginia Congressmen, Rob Wittman and Bob Goodlatte, co-sponsored the USA Freedom Act bill along with Virginia Democrat Congressmen, Jim Moran and Bobby Scott. That doesn’t happen often! The bill had the bipartisan House support of over 150 co-sponsors.
Let’s just pray that the Senate is successful in restoring the key components to the USA Freedom Act bill so that when we ask the government, ‘Can you hear me now?!’ the answer comes back a resounding – NO!
[Call Senator Warner and Kaine ((202) 224-3121) and ask them to support the original USA Freedom Act (HR1136). Tell them we don’t want them to water down the bill, because that is the same as watering down our civil liberties!]