The Power of Twelve

Rep. Amash

If you weren’t paying attention today, you might have missed a tremendous moment for liberty that happened yesterday evening.

The House of Representatives debated an amendment introduced by Rep. Justin Amash to a defense appropriations bill. The amendment would have significantly limited the authority of the NSA to collect data on American citizens who are not under investigation already.

Seems pretty reasonable, no?

The House didn’t think so, and instead chose to vote with what the White House, not the majority of Americans, wanted. In a final vote of 217-205, and reportedly after some intense lobbying from the White House, the House decided that it wasn’t reasonable to limit data collection to people who were under any reasonable suspicion of being involved in terrorism.

“This person looks like they might be guilty sometime in the future. Let’s record all their stuff to be sure.” – Lindsey Graham [citation probably not needed]

We’ve learned some important things today. The government’s encroachment on our individual liberties is reaching a dangerous tipping point. We’ve known for years that things like the PATRIOT ACT allowed for, shall we say, more creative interpretations of certain civil liberties such as the right to have warrants “specifically describe” the places to be searched. For years, the retort to this concern has been “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you worry?” As we can see now, the government doesn’t care if you’re doing anything wrong or not, they will collect massive amounts of information on you anyway; just in case you do sometime in the future, I suppose.

There’s no such thing as presumption of innocence when it comes to the catch-all justification of “national security,” even though the fact that there should be was once self-evident. I don’t think everyone in the government, the NSA, or the intelligence community is malicious. They’re people. I’m sure some of them are prudent. But our government was created to be a government of laws, not of men. The protection of our data, our privacy, and our rights, should not rely on the good intent of people given immeasurable power. That is not how our government was intended to work.

But, liberty lovers, this is not the time to be discouraged!

A few years ago, the American public largely didn’t care about the NSA, the PATRIOT ACT, or civil liberties concerns. For years and years, Ron Paul introduced legislation that died in committee with few or no cosponsors. The lone voice crying in the wilderness has retired from politics, but his profound influence has helped the people who followed him have quite a few allies. Let’s return to the vote itself.

205 voted in favor. 217 voted against. That’s a difference of twelve votes. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Twelve is nothing. The congressmen who voted against it can lose elections. Now it’s our responsibility not to let this issue go by the wayside. Don’t let people tell you they’re tired of hearing about it and change the subject to some fleeting thing like mayoral candidates who have problems with monogamy and discretion.  These are our liberties.  We can still get them back. We’re already winning. Let’s get those twelve votes – or those two-hundred seventeen – out of office. We have just one year until we get our first chance. Let’s not let them forget that they betrayed liberty and the will of their constituents.

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