I remember watching the old western High Noon a long time ago, for an English class in high school. The small details of the movie have since dropped out of my memory, except for the tune of a hokey song that played throughout the story, and the core of the plot: There was a powerful criminal gang in town, and the sheriff had to face them down. The sad part was that, one by one, his supposed friends left his side. Though they said that they supported the law, when push came to shove, they wouldn’t stand up themselves to keep it alive. So, at the end of the movie, the sheriff had to stand alone, on Main Street, at high noon.
That’s the unfortunate position we’re left with when it comes to the Democratic Party in the United States Senate. A criminal gang has taken over in Washington D.C., and it’s violating the highest law in the land: The Constitution of the United States of America. They’re violating the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which guarantees protection from unreasonable search and seizure for Americans’ persons and papers. They’re searching and seizing our papers, grabbing our private bank records, our mail, our medical documents, our financial transactions, even tracking our movements around the Internet.
George W. Bush started the criminal enterprise, with the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, but Barack Obama has now taken it over, and intends to keep these criminal activities going. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, speaking for the Obama Administration, has declared that the “important authorities” created by the Patriot Act must not be diminished because of concerns about constitutional rights.
In circumstances such as these, where the Executive Branch is going beyond its constitutional powers and violating the legal rights of the people, it’s the job of the Congress to hold the President accountable to the law. Republicans and Democrats failed to do so under George W. Bush, and they are once again failing to do so under Barack Obama.
We are quickly approaching a critical deadline: The Patriot Act expires in December. It’s an anti-constitutional law that gravely injures American freedom, and it ought to be allowed to expire. Yet, instead of letting the Patriot Act’s powers fade away, as they were originally supposed to do, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are leading the way in its reauthorization.
As the deputies disappeared one by one in High Noon, the supposed friends of the Constitution in the United States Senate have almost all abandoned the struggle to end the Patriot Act’s attacks against the Constitution. Most Democrats in the Senate are now on the side of the criminal gang. Only two in the Senate Judiciary Committee are still trying to get the dangerous powers of the Patriot Act out of the hands of the presidency.
These two senators offered alternative legislation, the Justice Act, that would have ended most of the abuses under the Patriot Act, and the FISA Amendments Act to boot. Sadly, last week, their efforts were stymied, and the Democratic leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee offered S. 1692 instead, a bill that offers only token reform of the Patriot Act, and does not address to the unconstitutional spy powers of the FISA Amendments Act at all.
When these two senators attempted to improve S. 1692, their efforts were blocked, not just by committee Republicans, but by their Democratic colleagues as well. On Thursday, there will be one last chance to amend S. 1692, but the Judiciary Committee as a whole seems to have stepped away from the cause of liberty, and appears loathe to support any amendments that offer serious reform.
These two remaining pro-constitution senators are Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin. They need your support. Don’t let them stand alone. Call the offices of your United States senators (everyone has two) today, and tell the person who answers the phone to please take a message that you want your senator to vote against S. 1692, the bill to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
It’s time for you to step out onto Main Street. The number of the congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. They’ll connect you to your senator’s office.