Supporters of the NSA’s large scale spying on the American people claim the program has made our country safer. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
This week, I stood on the Senate floor for over 10 hours explaining just that. We should never give up our rights for a false sense of security, but supporters of the PATRIOT Act are also presenting voters with a false choice. This week, the Investigator General reported that the FBI has not cracked a single terrorist plot thanks to the invasive spying powers implanted under the PATRIOT Act. Let me reiterate that: even the most vocal defenders of the spying program have failed to identify a single thwarted plot.
When will we realize that trading liberty for security is a monumental mistake? The Revolutionary War was fought to protect against writs of assistance, general warrants written by soldiers not judges. Our Founding Fathers believed that the right to be left alone—the right to be secure in your own persons—is the most cherished of rights.
Politicians like Senators Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Governors Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have all endorsed the NSA domestic surveillance program. Alone among presidential candidates, I am leading the fight to end this unconstitutional program. They are threatening our rights, freedoms, and privacy by encouraging the NSA to continue their warrantless tapping of American’s cell phones, and all without good reason.
Two independent, bipartisan presidential commissions have now said that not a single terrorist has been caught or terrorist plot stopped by this program. The only thing this program is stopping is the freedom and right to privacy of law-abiding citizens. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recognized this infringement and deemed the NSA spying program to be illegal. Additionally, a recent Pew Research Poll shows that a majority of Americans want the PATRIOT Act changed.
These politicians claim there is ‘ample evidence’ that bulk data collection of law-abiding citizens has played a major part in our anti-terrorist efforts. This is simply not true, when the facts have been independently reviewed by private and public organizations.
In a report issued Thursday, the Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Section 215 allows for secret court orders to collect “tangible things” that could be relevant to a government investigation—a far lower threshold and more expansive reach than a warrant based on probable cause. The list of possible “tangible things” the government can obtain without a warrant is seemingly limitless and can include things like driver license records and Internet browsing history.
Though the invasive program was tripled, FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the PATRIOT Act.
Earlier this year, the court of appeals for the Second Circuit deemed this bulk collection of data to be illegal, writing in the opinion that the program was an “unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.”