It seems like only yesterday that the congress pulled the intelligence and police agencies' dream legislation off the shelf where it had been blessedly mouldering for years and passed it with little fanfare. I'm speaking of the Patriot Act, a group of initiatives made into law in the wake of 9/11 as an emergency measure. As these things always seem to go, it has been on the books ever since, a permanent fixture in our never-ending War on Terror.
The bill has been reauthorized several times since then, most recently in 2011 under President Obama. It is due to be revisited again in June and one of the key elements to be reauthorized are the provisions which allow bulk surveillance of American citizens by the NSA. The intelligence reforms the president has offered do virtually nothing to stop this unconstitutional government intrusion on our freedom— so going through the Congress is our only hope.
A number of progressive groups have banded together to ask Congress to put an final expiration date on the program this year. It's gone on for over a decade and a half, growing in capability with precious little to show for the effort.
The GOP majority is up in arms about its constitutional prerogatives being usurped by the executive --- this is one area where they can make a stand and they will be joined in bipartisan comity by many Democrats. If you'd care to help us send a message to your Congressperson you can sign the petition here:
Blue America has been committed to the protection of our civil liberties from the beginning. We consider it one of the fundamental values required of any progressive politician.
And so does Senator Bernie Sanders. When the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, he was one of 66 Democratic House members to vote against it. He's never voted for a reauthorization as a Senator. In 2012, on the occasion of the Snowden revelations, Sanders took to Youtube and said this:
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"As one of the few members of Congress who consistently voted against the Patriot Act, I expressed concern at the time of passage that it gave the government far too much power to spy on innocent Americans. Unfortunately, what I said turned out to be exactly true. The United States government should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what freedom is about. That is not what our constitution is about.”
We don't believe it is either. And we think it's important to support stalwarts like Senator Sanders who have taken a stand from the beginning.
If he were to run for President you can be sure that he would be educating the people about the critical stakes they have in these issues at every whistle-stop and county fair.
We think it's important that a true civil libertarian is on the stump talking the talk over these next two years. We cannot leave the representation of this vital issue up to fringe Republican Rand Paul. There are many more civil libertarians in the Democratic Party and there is no better spokesman for them than Senator Bernie Sanders.
Thanks for all you do to help make this world a better place.
--Digby, for the entire Blue America team