Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2005/ 5 Mar-Cheshvan,
Conservatives speak for liberty
Weyrich continues: "That means citizens will allow the state to do
almost anything it wants so long as it justifies its actions in
terms of 'national security.' In effect, the Constitution and the
rule of law itself go out the window, along with our liberties."
There is also Bob Barr, with whom I once joined at a conference of
the American Conservative Union to criticize sections of the Patriot
Act. With customary clarity, he now states:
"We believe in traditional conservative values, like accountability.
... To date, for example, the Justice Department has failed to
disclose how many U.S. citizens' homes, businesses or records have
been secretly searched under the Patriot Act provisions, such as
Section 213 ('the sneak and peek' provision),, or even how many
National Security Letter searches (without any judicial supervision)
have been executed."
And Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), a descendant of a signer of
the Declaration of Independence, says resoundingly: "Under this
so-called Patriot Act, each of us faces the prospect that the
government could treat us as guilty with very little evidence. ...
Supporters argue Americans should have no 'sanctuaries' of privacy.
The government should be allowed to investigate us and search for
evidence against us anywhere with as few limitations as possible.
With this permanent expansion of government powers, we will no
longer have areas, such as our homes, that deserve greater privacy
protections. That is not the America that I know and love."
These and other such conservatives are in a direct line back to an
early American lawyer James Otis, who helped precipitate the
American Revolution. Appearing before a George III court in Boston
in 1761, he argued against the Writs of Assistance, by which British
customs officers could, in effect, write their own search warrants
to explore the colonists' homes and offices. Similarly, today, with
"sneak and peek" powers, government agents going before a
rubberstamp, secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can go
into your home of office when you're away.
Said James Otis to the King's judges: "One of the most essential
branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. This writ
if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this
In the colonies, however, the Writs of Assistance remained legal.
But a young lawyer, John Adams, listening to James Otis in that
courtroom, wrote in his diary that evening: "Then and there the
child, Independence, was born."
Also currently nurturing the spirit of our heritage of independence
and privacy is Steven Lilienthal, director of the Center for Privacy
and Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation. He regularly
sends me valuable news of present and prospective violations of
privacy by government and other entities.
Writing in support of "constant review" of Patriot Act powers,
Lilienthal emphasizes: "Many conservatives understand full well how
future policymakers can take laws intended for an important reason
combating terrorism and try applying those powers to other
areas. Not only should the existing sunsets (clauses in the Patriot
Act) be retained, they should be added to such far-reaching powers
as the Section 213 delayed notification searches ("sneak and peek")
that short-circuit the Fourth Amendment because (those powers)
extend well beyond fighting terrorism." The Justice Department
recently conceded that 88 percent of Section 213 search warrants
have been executed in non-terrorism cases.
These James Otises of our time are in sharp contrast to such critics
of the administration as bumptious show boaters Al Franken, Michael
Moore and the exclamatory, one-dimensional TV commercials of
MoveOn.org. Meanwhile, the most visible leaders of the opposition
Democratic Party Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean do
not seriously and persistently address the erosion of our civil
liberties with the penetrating insistence of conservative
Calling for a strengthening of constitutional checks and balances,
Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, criticizing the Patriot Act,
says: "(The government) could investigate us in secret based upon
unproven complaints against us. That puts all of us as individuals
at risk and at the mercy of any disgruntled neighbor or coworker who
alleges we are involved in terrorist activity. It could be me today,
or a neighbor or member of a labor union or church group tomorrow.
No one can say where it would end."
The president is a compassionate conservative, but not nearly enough
of a constitutional conservative in the spirit of James Otis, whose
actions led to the constitution. Bush often speaks of the
Constitution, but he should read why it was not ratified until the
Bill of Rights was added.
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