Expanding the Patriot Act: Foolish... And Certainly Not Conservative

Am I the only one who remembers the Fourth Amendment? It's the one right between not being forced to house soldiers in peacetime and the one that protects your property rights.

To refresh our memories here it is:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As constitutional amendments go, it's a pretty important one. In fact, along with the First and the Second, I'd say it's the most important part of the Bill of Rights. It embodies the basic innovation of American freedom – that a government of the people and by the people can't invade the people's privacy without a pretty good reason.

Lately, however, I'm starting to think our elected officials have skipped right past the "Fourth." Maybe there was a problem at the Government Printing Office and their copies of the Constitution don't look like mine. That's the only way I can figure that anyone would actually consider adding more provisions to the Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act was passed 45 days after Sept. 11, 2001, but Congress wisely insisted that some of the more extraordinary powers expire after a few years and not become a permanent part of our law. I voted for the Patriot Act then and I support fixing some of these provisions now.

I think it is high time to reconsider some of the provisions of the Patriot Act that give law enforcement officials too much secret search power and access to our personal records, without any evidence of a crime or even specific facts connecting the records sought to a foreign government or terrorist organization.

Now Congress and the administration want to expand the Patriot Act so they can get at our medical, library or gun purchase records (among many, many other things) without getting a judge's sign-off first. Are they serious? Giving the FBI this kind of carte blanche fishing–expedition power, and making this a permanent part of our law no matter who is in the White House is not just wrong, it's foolish. And it certainly isn't conservative.

The Patriot Act needs some common sense fixes to keep our liberty safe. Our Founding Fathers would want us to courageously defend our country and the Constitution. This is their legacy of liberty. We should rise to the challenge and preserve it rather than make a false sacrifice for extreme powers that don't make us safer but actually make us less free.

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