John Whitehead, Betraying The Constitution: Who Will Protect Us From An Unpatriotic Patriot Act?

Authored by John Whitehead

“It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”

– Thomas Paine

While Congress subjects the nation to its impeachment-flavored brand of bread-and-circus politics, our civil liberties continue to die a slow, painful death by a thousand cuts.

Case in point: while Americans have been fixated on the carefully orchestrated impeachment drama that continues to monopolize headlines, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law legislation extending three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which had been set to expire on December 15, 2019.

Once again, to no one’s surprise, the bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle—Democrats and Republicans alike—prioritized political grandstanding over principle and their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.

As Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) predicted:

Today, while everyone is distracted by the impeachment drama, Congress will vote to extend warrantless data collection provisions of the #PatriotAct, by hiding this language on page 25 of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that temporarily funds the government. To sneak this through, Congress will first vote to suspend the rule which otherwise gives us (and the people) 72 hours to consider a bill. The scam here is that Democrats are alleging abuse of Presidential power, while simultaneously reauthorizing warrantless power to spy on citizens that no President should have… in a bill that continues to fund EVERYTHING the President does… and waiving their own rules to do it. I predict Democrats will vote on a party line to suspend the 72 hour rule. But after the rule is suspended, I suspect many Republicans will join most Democrats to pass the CR with the Patriot Act extension embedded in it.

Massie was right: Republicans and Democrats have no problem joining forces in order to maintain their joint stranglehold on power.

The legislation passed the Senate with a bipartisan 74-to-20 vote. It squeaked through the House of Representatives with a 231-192 margin. And it was signed by President Trump—who earlier this year floated the idea of making the government’s surveillance powers permanent—with nary a protest from anyone about its impact on the rights of the American people.

Spending bill or not, it didn’t have to shake down this way, even with the threat of yet another government shutdown looming.

Congress could have voted to separate the Patriot Act extension from the funding bill, as suggested by Rep. Justin Amash, but that didn’t fly. Instead as journalist Norman Solomon writes for Salon, “The cave-in was another bow to normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.”

That, right there, is the key to all of this: normalizing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance powers.

In the 18 years since the USA Patriot Act—a massive 342-page wish list of expanded powers for the FBI and CIA—was rammed through Congress in the wake of the so-called 9/11 terror attacks, it has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The Patriot Act drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well.

The Patriot Act also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience are now considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

The Patriot Act justified broader domestic surveillance, the logic being that if government agents knew more about each American, they could distinguish the terrorists from law-abiding citizens—no doubt a reflexive impulse shared by small-town police and federal agents alike.

This, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., was a fantasy that “had been brewing in the law enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen.

Federal agents and police officers are now authorized to conduct covert black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices while you are away and confiscate your personal property without first notifying you of their intent or their presence.

The law also granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited (at least 545 libraries received such demands in the first year following passage of the Patriot Act).

In the name of fighting terrorism, government officials are now permitted to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government has subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.

The federal government also made liberal use of its new powers, especially through the use (and abuse) of the nefarious national security letters, which allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies at the mere say-so of the government agent in charge of a local FBI office and without prior court approval.

In fact, since 9/11, we’ve been spied on by surveillance cameras, eavesdropped on by government agents, had our belongings searched, our phones tapped, our mail opened, our email monitored, our opinions questioned, our purchases scrutinized (under the USA Patriot Act, banks are required to analyze your transactions for any patterns that raise suspicion and to see if you are connected to any objectionable people), and our activities watched.

We’re also being subjected to invasive patdowns and whole-body scans of our persons and seizures of our electronic devices in the nation’s airports. We can’t even purchase certain cold medicines at the pharmacy anymore without it being reported to the government and our names being placed on a watch list.

It’s only getting worse, folks.

Largely due to the continuous noise from television news’ talking heads, most Americans have been lulled into thinking that the pressing issues are voting in the next election, but the real issue is simply this: the freedoms in the Bill of Rights are being eviscerated.

The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches and the like—all sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—a recitation of the Bill of Rights would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

What once were considered inalienable, fundamental “rights”  are now mere privileges to be taken away on a government bureaucrat’s say-so.

To those who have been paying attention, this should come as no real surprise.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplethe Constitution has been on life support for some time now, and is drawing its final breaths.

The American government, never a staunch advocate of civil liberties, has been writing its own orders for some time now. Indeed, as the McCarthy era and the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and others illustrates, the government’s amassing of power, especially in relation to its ability to spy on Americans, predates the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001.

What the Patriot Act and its subsequent incarnations did was legitimize what had previously been covert and frowned upon as a violation of Americans’ long-cherished privacy rights.

After all, the history of governments is that they inevitably overreach.

Thus, enabled by a paper tiger Congress, the president and other agencies of the federal government have repeatedly laid claim to a host of powers, among them the ability to use the military as a police force, spy on Americans and detain individuals without granting them access to an attorney or the courts. And as the government’s powers have grown, unchecked, the American people have gradually become used to these relentless intrusions into their lives.

In turn, the American people have become the proverbial boiling frogs, so desensitized to the government’s steady encroachments on their rights that civil liberties abuses have become par for the course.

Yet as long as government agencies are allowed to make a mockery of the very laws intended to limit their reach, curtail their activities, and guard against the very abuses to which we are being subjected on a daily basis, our individual freedoms will continue to be eviscerated so that the government’s powers can be expanded, the Constitution be damned.

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8 thoughts on “John Whitehead, Betraying The Constitution: Who Will Protect Us From An Unpatriotic Patriot Act?”

  1. Here is a suggestion: Move the totally corrupt Congress out of D.C. and put in in a large tent on the Bonneville Salt Flats right in the path of race cars going over 500+ ,mph with no AC! Perhaps we might all get lucky. Both totally corrupt political parties MUST be abolished along with all corrupt State laws supporting their corruption. Voting is a total joke. Most of the time a majority of the registered voters does not even show up at the polls let alone elect anyone. If one person shows up and votes for a candidate or ballot issue, and no one shows up to vote against, they win or the ballot issue passes! Americans are the biggest fools on planet Earth. They rightly deserve to LOSE every hard fought freedom. How come there are fines for everything from jay walking to parking on the grass but no fines for not voting? Think about this. They don’t want anyone voting. It is all a sham folks. Who said this: “We need to clean out the barn in DC”? How long ago did he say it? Many whores in Congress are dual citizens with the country which did 9/11/01! What country is this? ISRAEL! God Americans are stupid fools and expletives deleted! https://ehpg.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/israel_did_911.pdf
    Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics

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    1. Dr. Winfield….I hear your frustration. Myself….and if i may speak for others on this blog….seem to be at that same point. It’s become beyond evident that words, logic and beseeching some power beyond ourselves is NOT going to solve what has happened to this country and this planet. Those who feign to be our leaders, interested in the common good, morality and democracy offer no relief and themselves have gone far over the edge. Their exposure and truth are no longer relevant….and it could be they never actually mattered. We need ACTION. And we need the kind of action that interferes with their BOTTOM LINE. That strategy does not necessarily mean violence. What I propose may lead to violence, but their response will only expose them more than ever and more will join when they understand those who ‘lead’ have NO CONCERN for our welfare, our property and/or our lives.
      I propose as a start, ONE DAY of no activity….. no work, no shopping, no banking, no driving, no cell activity. NOTHING! Pick a day in the not too distant future and spread the word via the WEB. What’s to lose, other than a relaxing day at home? This is something in which all could participate without concern of any retaliation. No corporation is going to fire millions. If ONE day does not get their attention, we go for two and further if necessary. We may ask some intellects like Dr. Fetzer to draw up a list of grievances that must be addressed and until they are at least RECOGNIZED, we stay home. It’s also a chance for us to come together and help our neighbors through what may be some rough times. That in itself may serve a higher purpose. We all need to re-assert that were are humans and not some entity on the other side of a cell phone.
      This is just the start of an idea….please feel free to add some details. BUT, please do respond.

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      1. Will, Thank you for your obviously heart felt comment. I don’t have the answers Will and did not claim to. All one must do to get a feeling that the election codes in all 50 States are a total nightmare is to read the Bush vs Gore decision by the U.S. Supreme Court or a summary in some authoritative source, if one can stand to read all the garbage there. To me, Will, and I do not claim any expertise in this at all, the bottom line is this: The U.S. Supreme Court, which would be the ultimate arbiter in any dispute, will not allow any delay in the decision of who becomes President following a so called “election”, no matter how much they gang rape the voting process. This is exactly the con that was imposed in Bush vs Gore and led basically, in my opinion, to the Court “electing” Bush, not the electorate. This is a total disgrace and gang rape of every good intention in our Constitution of the so called “democratic processes”. Of course lawyers are very good at side stepping basic doctrine just to obtain a result especially when that court is the final one which can render a decision as the Supreme Court is. How could one legally challenge that corrupt decision in any practical way even if one had unlimited money to hire the best lawyers in the country? This was a totally corrupt election. I am not a fan of ether them, Gore or Bush, but I am also not a fan of the corrupt court electing Bush based on a ruse either. When Ross Perot challenged the two party system in 1992 he performed an amazing feat by reaching about 20%. Although that was very good, it still fell far short didn’t it and the powers that be easily realized there would be no serious challenge to their continued total corruption of the ballot boxes in America by so called Democrats and Republicans. Will, the existing totally corrupt system is so entrenched, I can’t see any realistic changes because the vested interests are far too strong and powerful to challenge. Somehow the existing corrupt system will have to fall under its own weight, as a result say of some unpredictable outside effect, like total failure of the dollar which could come at any instant, or some catastrophic event such as a nuclear bomb going off in a storage facility, or a massive power failure throughout the country as a few examples. I do not have answers Will. I wish I did. America is in deep deep expletives deleted. I think the only certainty is we can not go on down the failed road we are on now; we are headed off a cliff. Perhaps your proposal would lead to some improvement. I just don’t know.

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        1. WJA, thank you for the reply. Neither do I have an answer. What I know at this point is that we live in a US totally unrecognizable to those of us who have been around for a while. I come from the side of ‘it’s better to do something than nothing’.
          If all this technology….all these devices ….cannot bring us all together for some common good, they are worthless and only another way to exert control over billions. Again, I ask ‘How do 535 con men and women hold the rein over 7 billion?
          Is it some kind of magic…a spell…an incantation? Or is it just the fear of each individual….each individual NOT realizing there are billions behind each of us.
          Do we die on our knees or standing up?
          it’s a choice.

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          1. Further, here is a great comment (KashNcarry) on a ZH article this AM:

            Here’s what Tylers’ left out at the very end:

            “Post Scriptum

            Hardscrabble Farmer is a New Hampshire farmer who regularly posts his own articles and comments on other people’s, including mine, on The Burning Platform website. He also makes the world’s best maple syrup. He commented on TBP about this post, and I thought his comment and my response should be up on SLL.

            Hardscrabble Farmer

            I have read a lot of your work and recognize your voice in each piece, but lately it’s become both more accessible and- what’s the word I’m looking for?- militant. Yup, that’s it.

            I get the feeling you’ve crossed some personal Rubicon in your thinking.

            Robert Gore

            HSF

            That is an incredibly perceptive comment and you hit a couple of nails right on the head.

            To the extent there’s a Rubicon it’s been Trump. He has said some of the right things, first as a candidate and then as President, things I agree with and prompted me to vote for him. Most importantly, he’s questioned US interventionism and endless war. He’s also challenged political correctness on immigration, identity politics, transnational trade deals, regulation, the media, the Federal Reserve, and the bureaucracy, among other things.

            Inspiring as all that has been, he has accomplished very little. Like Uncola and many others, I’m not sure if that’s because he’s a Deep State plant or because of intense Deep State opposition. In the long run, it probably doesn’t matter. The debt grows, the military’s budget grows, the government grows, we have more not less troops in the Middle East, our civil liberties shrink, and so on, an ever-expanding litany of the failures of modern governance. The Trump presidency has turned three suspicions into convictions: the problems America faces cannot be solved via conventional politics, no matter who we elect; we are amidst a 4th Turning collapse, and that collapse offers the only hope that something better might emerge.

            From those convictions emerge the militancy. I’m 61 and not getting any younger. If collapse is inevitable, bring it on. And start preparing for what comes afterward. I think, and certainly hope, that the US does not survive as a political entity. Break it into enough pieces so that at least one of those pieces can be a haven for those seeking their freedom and liberty. I’ll be the first to sign up. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a violent process, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. I don’t want to fight, but if fight we must, fight I will. I’m in it to win it and I want to see it happen while I’m still alive.

            To your other point about accessibility. The only power I have or want is the power of my words. I’m short-circuiting myself if people don’t understand what I’m saying, and now, more than ever, clarity on my part and understanding on their part are essential. While occasionally the $10 words and the multi-clause sentences still seem essential, often they are not. Mark Twain once said, ““The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Occasionally the right word is still the $10 one, and occasionally the right sentence is a long one, but usually the 5 cent word and the shorter sentence will do. Now more than ever I’m trying to make myself understood.

            Thank you for your great comment. With your permission I’d like to repost it on SLL, along with my response.”

            tl;dnr?… tough $hi+

            It’s refreshing to see the thought processes of those who can articulate well & make their point.
            Me…I left out the YT links (personal boycott of the sobs)…go to the article and comment section for those ….

            https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/hows-alternative-reality-working-out-you

  2. If you still think Trump is going to save the Republic, ask yourself why he would sign the bill reauthorizing the “Patriot Act”. This is the kiss of death.

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