Republican Representative Ron Paul took to the floor of the House of Representatives today to declare his opposition to H.R. 514, a bill to renew three key provisions of the Patriot Act. The following is a full transcription of his remarks:
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill. I was opposed to the Patriot Act in 2001, and do not believe it is a good idea now to extend it.
The Fourth Amendment is rather clear. It says that we should be secure in our papers, our persons, our homes and our effects, and that if warrants are to be issued we have to do it with probable cause and describe in particular the places, the people and the things that we’re going to look at. I think what has happened though, over the years, has been that we have diluted the Fourth Amendment. It was greatly diluted in 2001, but it started a lot earlier than that when the FISA law was originally written in 1978. That really introduced the notion that the Fourth Amendment was relative and not absolute. Later on, it was further weakened in ’98 and then of course in 2001.
I think with our reaction to the horrors of 9-11, we can understand the concern and the fear that developed, but I think the reaction took us in the wrong direction. The assumption was made, of course, that we weren’t spending enough money on surveillance and even though then our intelligence agencies received $40 Billion, they didn’t give us the right information. So now we’re spending $80 Billion. It also looks like the conclusion was that the American people had too much privacy, and if we undermined the American people’s privacy somehow or another we’re going to be safer.
I think another thing that has come up lately has been that the purpose of government is to make us perfectly safe. Now it is good to be safe, but governments can’t make us safe. I question whether or not we have been made safer by the Patriot Act. But if they say a law makes us somewhat safer, is that a justification for anything they want? For instance, if you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.
This, to me, has been especially since 9-11 a classical example of sacrificing liberty for safety and security. Now, I didn’t invent those terms. They’ve been around a long time. It’s easily justified, and I can understand it. I was here in 2001 when this came up, and people become frightened. The American people want something done. But I think this is misdirected and it doesn’t serve our benefits.
So I think this time we should really question why we’re extending this. We’re extending the three worst parts! Why were these sunsetted? Because people had concerns about them; they weren’t sure they were good pieces and maybe they were over a few and therefore they said “we’d better reassess this.” What have we done? We have already extended it twice and here we’re going to do it again, with the intention I think in a year to reassess it. But this bill doesn’t make things worse, it doesn’t make things better. It does extend what I consider bad legislation. I ask for a no vote on this legislation.