May 19, 2011
Congressional leaders sell out the Constitution
Shahid Buttar, Executive Director
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Amy E. Ferrer, Associate Director
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Today, the Associated Press reports that "top congressional leaders have agreed to a four-year extension of the USA PATRIOT Act, including...[provisions] that have been controversial in the past." Decried by voices across the political spectrum, from conservatives Bob Barr, Bruce Fein, and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), to progressives Russ Feingold and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the PATRIOT Act is being set up—yet again—to force profound abuses on the American people without any meaningful debate.
That is how the PATRIOT Act first came into being 10 years ago—without meaningful debate. Today, despite the prior approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee of a bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to impose some (albeit inadequate) reforms, the congressional leadership is dictating the result of a long overdue policy debate that has never happened.
Congress has a constitutional responsibility to check and balance the Executive Branch, but has failed that responsibility dramatically. Today's news demonstrates a spectacular bipartisan failure by our nation's political leaders, who have yet again proven their ignorance of the constitutional principles they have sworn to defend.
While grassroots constitutionalists may have ultimately been unable to derail the PATRIOT Act, it has not been for lack of effort. We at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee mobilized more than 1,100 supporters from over 340 congressional districts and all 50 states to raise their voices to members of Congress just last month. And since 2002, we have worked with local communities to pass resolutions opposing the surveillance state in eight states and more than 400 municipalities all over the country.
According to Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee,
This agreement reeks of all the worst things about Washington: secrecy, back-room dealing, institutional co-optation, and bipartisan collusion to undermine constitutional rights. The death of Osama bin Laden offered the hope that our nation's leaders might finally restore sanity to the national security establishment in the wake of mounting documented abuses. Instead, they insulated it from debate and rammed the PATRIOT Act down the throats of hundreds of millions of law-abiding Americans. I am, quite frankly, disgusted.
About the Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Formed in 2001, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) is a national non-profit grassroots organization. We defend the rule of law and rights and liberties challenged by overbroad national security and counter-terrorism policies. BORDC supports an ideologically, ethnically, geographically, and generationally diverse grassroots movement to protect and restore these principles by encouraging widespread civic participation; educating people about the significance of our rights; and cultivating grassroots networks to convert concern, outrage, and fear into debate and action. For more information, visit http://www.bordc.org or call (413) 582-0110.
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