Unconstitutionally Spying on American Citizens
by Rick Brinegar
Beyond the Scope of the Law
One of the excesses of the post-9/11 war on terror, the USA PATRIOT Act, has become a huge threat to personal privacy and instrumental in the formation of the coming one-world government. Supposedly deriving their authority from the Act, both the Bush and Obama administrations have legitimatized warrantless wiretapping, the monitoring of Internet behavior, and the bulk collection of phone record metadata of millions of Americans. Signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001 the PATRIOT Act has been broadened by government agencies to intrude upon an overwhelming amount of detailed information gathered from billions of the daily communications of private citizens. Even the original author of the bill declared in 2013 that the Obama White House had taken the PATRIOT Act so far beyond the original scope of the law that the President should immediately direct his administration to stop abusing the U.S. Constitution.
Antithetic to Civil Liberties
The Act got its name from a ten-letter acronym, “USA PATRIOT”, which stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” It is a fine-sounding name for one of the major post-9/11 legislative and executive maneuvers that constitute a wholesale assault on basic constitutional and civil rights. The PATRIOT Act was originally promoted as a defense of liberty and a strengthening of law enforcement’s capacity to prevent another 9/11. However, its provisions are an assortment of governmental powers that had been sought over the years preceding 9/11 and which had been previously rejected as diametrically opposed to civil liberties.
New Crime Created: “Domestic Terrorism”
The PATRIOT Act contained more than 150 separate sections in ten major titles, some of which greatly expanded the government’s criminal and intelligence search and surveillance authority. It created a new crime— “domestic terrorism”. Under provisions of the Act, a warrant could be issued based on the suspicion that you are a “terrorist”, that you have provided “material assistance” to a terrorist or made a donation to an organization that is suspected of being terrorist. You may not even be aware that you are a “terrorist” suspect when you are surveilled, searched or apprehended.
National Security Letters Bypass the Courts
The use of NSLs, or National Security Letters was expanded by the PATRIOT Act by lowering the required evidentiary standards. NSLs are issued by the Justice Department and are served on communications service providers like phone companies and ISPs to allow the FBI to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens’ private communications and Internet activities without any oversight or judicial review.
Wiretaps Without Probable Cause
Whether or not the subject of a wiretap is linked to any suspected terrorist activity, the PATRIOT Act expanded government’s power to wiretap without a warrant or probable cause. It also facilitated unlimited sharing of information between the CIA, FBI, INS, NSA and the military and the Secret Service without any judicial review and without limits on how these agencies can use the information once they get it.
Defenders of the PATRIOT Act
Under the Bush administration, Attorney General Ashcroft redefined the mission of the Department of Justice turning the focus of federal law enforcement from apprehending and incarcerating criminals to detecting and halting terrorist activity on American soil and abroad. Between 2002 and 2004, Ashcroft launched a national promotional tour of the USA PATRIOT Act declaring that the Act updates our anti-terrorism laws to meet the challenges of new technology and new threats. “We are at war,” Ashcroft said, “and we have to do things differently than we did before.” He pointed out that the only purpose of the PATRIOT Act is “to prevent terrorists from unleashing more death and destruction.” He also argued that the courts and Congress still safeguarded the constitutional rights of Americans.
President Bush also defended the PATRIOT Act saying that it was not meant to violate the privacy of the people but to protect them from the terrorism. In a speech in 2005, President Bush explained, “The Patriot Act is essential to protecting the American people against the terrorists. The Act tore down the wall between law enforcement and intelligence officials so that they can share information and work together to help prevent attacks.”
PATRIOT Act Author Sees Abuses
In June 2013, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the author of the PATRIOT Act, disagreed with the idea that the PATRIOT Act gave the administration authority to sift through details of our private lives. “I authored the Patriot Act,” he said, “and this is an abuse of that law.” He also spoke of his intent to provide for oversight within the law by building in “sunset” provisions when he wrote it. Congressman Sensenbrenner wrote seventeen provisions so that they would automatically expire if Congress did not renew them. Also, the law required surveillance approval by the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Snowden Reveals Metadata Scheme
The extent of the government’s intrusion into American lives under the PATRIOT Act was kept secret until two years ago. At that time, Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee, divulged that the NSA had been collecting metadata about virtually every phone call made in the United States. This revelation caused a nation-wide outcry against this unprecedented violation of the constitution, and the government scrambled to justify its secrecy and intrusion.
Metadata includes the phone numbers of the caller and recipient and the time and duration of the call; it does not include recordings of the actual conversations. Many of the major phone companies have complied with court orders to turn over these records to the NSA. In March of 2015, almost two years after the Snowden revelations, a federal court issued another extension to keep the domestic surveillance program going until the 1st of June. By then, Congress must vote on whether to reauthorize section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which authorizes the NSA to harvest phone records, e-mails, texts and other communications from nearly all American citizens.
Bulk Collection Metadata Reveals “Everything”
Research published by Stanford University in March 2014 revealed that the bulk collection of phone and Internet “metadata” conducted by the NSA can reveal “everything” about a person’s life, including, “medical conditions, financial and legal connections and even whether they own a gun.” Congressman Sensenbrenner, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Second Circuit Court agree that the scope of NSA’s telephone record collection program exceeds legal authority even though the FISA court approves it. The Second Circuit found in May 2015 that Section 215 of the Act does not “authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here.” EPIC petitioned the Supreme Court in 2013 explaining, “It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation.” Congressman Sensenbrenner takes the same position asking, “How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?”
Violations of the Constitution
The PATRIOT Act’s expansion of record searches is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment which says that the government cannot conduct a search without obtaining a warrant and without showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime. It also violates the Fourth Amendment because it fails to provide notice to persons whose privacy has been compromised. Notice is also a key element of due process which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is abused because the Act prohibits the recipients of search orders from telling others about those orders even where there is no real need for secrecy.
“Sneak and Peek” Searches
Common law has always required that the government notify you before it executes a search of your property. This “knock and announce” procedure has long been recognized as a compliance with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Under the PATRIOT Act, the government can enter a residence with a search warrant while the occupants are away, rifle through their belongings, take photographs and not tell them until later.
Ineffective, Non-Essential and Illegal
A group tasked by the White House to review the issue in 2013 had found that the program “was not essential to preventing attacks.” Last year, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board declared that the NSA metadata collection program is not only illegal, but that it had “not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.” Also, the Justice Department’s Inspector General reported on May 21, 2015 that information collected under Section 215 of the Act did not lead to “any major case developments.” This directly contradicted a claim made on the same day by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, that Section 215 has “proven very important in cases that we have built.”
The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on May 7, 2015 that the dragnet collection of American call data is illegal which dealt a startling blow to the program just as Congress began debating reforms to the government’s expansive surveillance programs. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has always maintained that Section 215 of the Act was never intended to allow bulk collection. “This program is illegal,” Congressman Sensenbrenner said, “and based on a blatant misinterpretation of the law.”
House Votes to End Metadata Dragnet
The United State House of Representatives voted in May of 2015 to terminate the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata with passage of the USA Freedom Act. This bill would shift responsibility for collecting the metadata to the phone companies. The White House approves of the House’s NSA reform bill because the U.S. government could still access the massive database of Americans’ metadata from the phone companies with approval easily obtained from the FISA court.
U.S. Senate Debates the USA Freedom Act
The Senate continued to debate the merits of the USA Freedom Act in May 2015 considering in particular the bulk collection of metadata. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had determined that bulk collection is not authorized by the PATRIOT Act but postponed implementation of its decision to give Congress time to discuss the pros and cons. NSA’s surveillance of email and Internet activity is addressed by other laws and is not part of this debate.
What if the USA Freedom Act did make it out of the Senate and was signed into law? According to Ron Paul, who served in the House of Representatives from 1976 to 1977, it would still be unconstitutional. He said on May 10, 2015,
Illegality and unconstitutionality are really two very different things. Even if Congress explicitly authorized the government to collect our phone records, that law would still be unconstitutional because the Constitution does not grant government the power to access our personal information without a valid search warrant.
Rand Paul Filibuster
Several provisions of the PATRIOT Act were scheduled to expire at midnight on May 31, 2015. Many Senate leaders hoped to ram through a last-minute extension of the PATRIOT Act. However, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul was determined to block the extension and to force the expiration of the phone-data-collection program. On May 20, 2015, Paul launched a 10-hour and 30-minute filibuster causing the Senate to leave for recess without extending the PATRIOT Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hoped the Senate would be able to pass a quick fix when it returned after the holiday break, just eight hours before the data-collecting provisions expired. Paul was able to also block this maneuver, and the unconstitutional collection of data by the government expired. During his filibuster, Paul tweeted, “My filibuster continues to end NSA illegal spying.”
Unnoticed One-World Government Tyranny
Since the PATRIOT Act relates mostly to foreign nationals and deals with terrorism, it has largely slipped under the awareness of many Americans because most of us look at ourselves as neither foreign nor terrorist. The fact is, the Act’s rampant and manifest abuses apply to and affect Americans in many bad ways by undermining the Constitution, taking power out of the hands of courts and ensuring the lack of oversight over intelligence gathering. The law is a dangerous travesty of liberty and privacy. It doesn’t just allow authorities to evade probable cause and due process; it opens the door of a nation to unsavory tyrants who sneak in under cover of darkness to overcome, track and control their subjects.
Bible Prophesies the Coming of a “Lawless One”
If the constitution of the United States can be circumvented and disregarded, nothing stands between us and tyranny. The Bible prophesies the coming of a tyrannical leader, describing him as the Lawless One, the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, the Wicked One, the Vile Person, the Willful King, the Beast and the Antichrist. Scripture also prophesies of a one-world government which will be consolidated into the totalitarian hands of the Antichrist. This world government structure will be satanically empowered. (See Revelation 13:2.) It will advance through deceit and treachery, spying on everyone, destroying all liberty and privacy in its path, and it is forming right now!
Uncovering the Real Threat
The PATRIOT Act was promoted as a way to provide massive amounts of intelligence vital to the defense of democracy. It was originally supposed to target the communications and logistics of the enemies of Western civilization. Today, however, the PATRIOT Act has been exposed as a very real threat to our freedoms. It is not acceptable to suspend any portion of the Constitution for any period of time. If key provisions of this intelligence gathering system are renewed, or similar surveillance measures are legislated, it could help facilitate the inception of the most powerful totalitarian state ever conceived, the one-world Empire