Ron Paul exposes proposed Patriot Act reform as political smoke and mirrors
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) As Congress appears set to debate what lawmakers are calling reform measures to the controversial USA PATRIOT Act, provisions of which expire at the end of May, one former legislator says any hint that the House and Senate will actually change what's in the law is just hype.
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, whose son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has announced that he is running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, said in a recent video report that many in Congress really want to keep the law intact, including its most controversial provisions that permit widespread surveillance and data collection. However, in order to placate some of the law's most vociferous critics (which, by the way, includes the junior Paul), lawmakers will entertain some compromises that won't actually curb the government's spying powers.
"The USA FREEDOM Act is being advertised as a compromise between those who want to keep the PATRIOT Act in tact and those who want to repeal it. It is not a compromise. It is a fig leaf," says Paul on his Ron Paul Institute website.
In the video, which you can watch below, Paul talks with Norman Singleton, his former legislative director, and describes the legislation as a "hoax."
Singleton noted that the title of the legislation, for example, was every bit as misleading as the "Affordable Care Act," because of which healthcare and health insurance are now harder to afford for tens of millions of Americans.
"We're not going to have more freedom under" the USA FREEDOM Act, he said.
"I don't really see the difference"
He noted that the bill "is basically two parts: One... is an extension of the parts of the PATRIOT Act that sunset at the end of [May]," the "worst parts" of current law that permit "the intelligence agencies to collect our phone calls," Internet communications and other data.
Two, Singleton says, there "is a little bit of reform put in" the current legislation to "make it a little harder for [the government] to collect the data, but if you really look at the details, it's such a small amount of reform that it really amounts to nothing."
He believes that future presidents will merely find a way to "get around the law" as has happened in the past, to justify maintaining "the security state."
Paul pointed out that the new legislation did nothing to prevent "the phone companies" from "keeping our records." Further, he said, "the government still has access to these records" under the new bill.
Both Paul and Singleton noted that President Obama has said recently that he did not want the government collecting the records, but that he has no issue with the telecoms keeping records.
"I don't really see the difference," Singleton said.
"There aren't many heroes in the telecommunications world who are willing to stand up for their customers," said Singleton.
Presidents have used Constitution as justification for spying
The most controversial portion of the PATRIOT Act is Section 215. Titled "Access to Records and Other Items Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," the section amended a portion of the 1978 FISA law dealing with securing search warrants from a secret court and congressional oversight, and critics said the amendment made it easier to spy. The new legislation does little to change that language.
However, both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have claimed that the president's role as Commander-in-Chief under the Constitution's Article II, Sect. 2, during a time of war -- albeit a never-ending, unconventional, asymmetric conflict -- authorizes the surveillance, whether or not a warrant has been issued.
"We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief... that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority" to order warrantless wiretapping -- 'an authority that Congress cannot curtail,'" then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who was head of Bush's Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in a redacted 2004 memo, The Washington Post reported.
Civil libertarians disagree, of course, and that is the subject of Paul's video presentation, which you can see in its entirety here.
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