Trashing the Patriot Act at CPAC

Christian Gomez of the New American wrote an excellent article on the Patriot Act bashing during CPAC. Here’s a few outtakes from his piecedealing with my spiel at CPAC on Saturday:

Bovard started his speech by asking the audience: “I’d like to know how many people in this room have had their phone calls wiretapped by the Feds?” Members of the audience asked back, “That we know of?” and, “Who knows?” To which Bovard replied: “Well, that’s the whole point!” He went on to ask the audience the same question in regards to e-mails, but overall his point was that nobody really knows whose calls or e-mails are being monitored. Bovard noted too that communications could be altered or manipulated through careful audio splicing or deletion of certain words or phrases in order to change the meaning of the message — and bring it into agreement with whatever case law enforcement officials have made against the accused.

Bovard congratulated Campaign for Liberty for defeating the Patriot Act — which he described as “John Boehner’s anti-freedom joyride” — last week. Bovard noted that there was an overlap between the members who voted against the Act and those who attend Ron Paul’s weeklly study meetings. “It’s great to see that Ron Paul’s efforts to work with other Republicans are bearing fruit,” Bovard acknowledged adding on, “I’ve always been amazed of how much patience Congressman Paul has on that.”

Bovard said that that the Patriot Act “treats every American like a suspected terrorist and treats every federal agent like a proven angel.”

On the issue of information gathering, he said “it should come in the form of warnings that any information the government gathers can and will be used against you, if the government decides you are an enemy.”

He went on to issue a detailed condemnation of the Patriot Act’s Section 215, which deals with the National Security Letters. Under this section, the federal government “subpoenas and issues de facto search warrants,” and the FBI seizes records “that show where a person makes or spends his money, with whom he lives or lived before, and how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he finds and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home or work, according to the Washington Post,” Bovard said.

He went to say that the federal government issues in a year about 50,000 National Security Letters, and that just one of those letters can affect thousands of Americans. “The National Security Letters have turned the Fourth Amendment on its head, by creating the presumption that the government is entitled to personal or confidential information,” he explained. He said the targets of these letters can go to a federal judge and challenge the letters them, but only if the have the money to undertake this action, which “can easily cost ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand dollars.”

“The Founding Fathers placed the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution so the federal government would have to provide specific information indicating criminal wrong doing about a specific person at a specific time,” Bovard added.

Bovard went on to ask the audience another good question: “You have most of the GOP stampeding to make sure that federal agencies under Obama continue to have mass surveillance powers over Americans — Why?” Bovard continued, “How does the GOP benefit from letting the other party spy on them.” The reason for this, Bovard explained, is because “Congressmen simply don’t give a damn about federal agencies violating American’s privacy.”

Even after the fact that it was exposed by the New York Times that thousands of Americans had been the victim of warrantless wiretaps, President George W. Bush maintained his steadfast commitment to the Act, which prompted Bovard to remark: “It’s an outrage that Bush and others have not been indicted.”

Bovard concluded his speech with a call to patriotism and to end the Patriot Act:

The Patriot Act is systematic of a government gone out of control. Keep in mind that a democratic government that respects no limits on its power is a ticking time bomb waiting to destroy the rights it was created to protect.

America needs a higher greater patriotism. It is not patriotic to ignore violations of the Constitution; It is not patriotic to look the other way as politicians ravage rights; It is not patriotic to pretend that politicians are entitled to all of the power they can grab until they are either impeached or indicted; and it is not patriotic to give the benefit of the doubt to people that are trying to shackle you.

Getting rid of the Patriot Act will be a small step towards making government less dangerous and making Washington less noxious.

After the event, The New American asked Bovard about the prospects of Congress repealing the Patriot Act. He was not optimistic. “Pay attention and get some courage,” he added. “Congress doesn’t simply pay attention. Congress doesn’t care about the abuses. Congress only cares about their campaign donors.”

When asked his thoughts about the full range of possible 2012 Presidential candidates, as to which ones exhibited libertarian principles and would likely veto the Patriot Act, Bovard responded: “Well there isn’t any candidate who’s close to Ron Paul when it comes to being principled and courageous; and Ron Paul has got a record as far back as 1996-97 as far as I was being active. Ron Paul is who he says; he does what he promises. So you know that’s unnatural for a politician, but most of the other candidates are damn rascals.”

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10 Responses to Trashing the Patriot Act at CPAC

  1. Sunni February 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    And you escaped with your life after uttering such heresies? Amazing.

  2. CF Oxtrot February 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Great points, Jim. I think a lot of people don’t stop to wonder WHY people wanted the Patriot Act. I assume they want to surveill all of us, and use what they gather against us, whenever they feel our aims don’t mesh with theirs.

    What OTHER reason for the Patriot Act, really?

    None as far as I can see.

  3. Jim February 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    CF, the Patriot Act has helped politicians get reelected – it provides the illusion of a security blanket…

  4. Jim February 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Sunni, if I had said the same things at a general CPAC forum 3 years ago, folks might have …. well, gotten very very very agitated.
    At this point, it is almost like there are 2 CPACs – the authoritarian mainline one, and the Ron Paul-Campaign for Liberty alternative CPAC, all under the same umbrella.

  5. Lawrence February 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Jim, I’m so glad you are peeing in the statist punchbowl at that CPAC load-fest! You are holding up a mirror to some very ugly people, and they are attacking the mirror!

  6. Jim February 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    “peeing in the Statist punchbowl?”

    Actually, I prefer Mencken’s notion of ‘throwing a dead cat into the sanctuary.’

  7. Lawrence February 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Jim, sadly, my weakness is for potty humor.

  8. Jim February 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Lawrence, are you a closet Anglophile????

  9. Lawrence February 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    Jim, at first I was worried that I might be an anglophile, but I remembered that their food is not my friend. Then I remembered the true source of my liking for potty humor. In the libertarian community, there used to be a saying that went something like this: “When you think of public schools, think of public toilets.” Well, since I’m no longer associated with any schools, all that’s left if the thinking about public toilets!

  10. Jim February 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I bet it was a huge relief to Mimi when she realized that you weren’t an Anglophile!

    Ya, public schools…. it was hard to tell the difference between the school lunches and the [redacted].

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