Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An open reply to Senator Mike Crapo

It's interesting how obliging our representatives can be.  If you have ever tried to contact your representative or senator you will most likely be given only one electronic means of communication - email via a web form.  Each time you wish to communicate with them, no matter how many times you have in the past, you will be required to give them your full address, phone number and name and sometimes more than that - every time.  There is no sign-up to be a regular correspondent with the person that is in office to represent YOU.
On top of that, if you ask them for a response, you will get one, canned, and without including the original email you sent - and you will have no record of your original correspondence (unless you take special pains to keep a copy that is) because it will never be included in your reply.  The reply is always general and will be from an email address you cannot reply to.
So, with my options very limited as to my ability to respond to my representatives response I give you my open response to Senator Crapo's (Idaho) response to my request to NOT extend the Patriot act which was recently before the Senate.
Here is the Senator's response in blue to my initial request which I have no record of because I had to send this on a web-form and did not save a copy.  My responses are in purple interspersed.  I will be referring to this post in my next correspondence with the Senator.

February 25, 2011

Mr.Sanford Staab

Dear Sanford:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns regarding the PATRIOT Act. I appreciate knowing your thoughts and welcome the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, the PATRIOT Act was signed into law by former President Bush on October 26, 2001. Yes it was, under severe threats and panic over 911 which was used as the opportunity to slam through this pre-conceived legislation just for such a time.  Note that the text can be found here and is 271 pages long.  At the time representatives passed this legislation without having been able to even read the legislation.  Your statement above makes it sound like the Bush Administration made this law with prudent and informed deliberation - which was NOT the case (unless it had been planned and thought through long before the 911 incident) Since then, there has been a great deal of controversy about the provisions included in the Act and whether they infringe on individual civil liberties. My standard from the outset is the Constitution. If anything unconstitutional is in the Patriot Act, it should be immediately corrected. Sounds good Senator.  Here is the 4th amendment to the constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Lets keep this text in mind as we read on...
On February 15, 2011, Congress reauthorized three controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act that extend certain powers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Specifically, the first provision grants the authority for FBI investigators to obtain a “roving wiretap” court order, which authorizes them to follow a target who switches phone numbers.
It appears that the evidence needed to violate the privacy of an individual is simply the fact that someone is changing phone numbers.  This is evidence of what crime?  What oath or affirmation is needed to ensure this is probable cause of a crime?  What is specifically being sought after with the wire-tap?
The second provision allows the court-ordered seizure of “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation.
Seizure of property is covered in the constitution under the 5th Amendment:
No person shall ... be deprived of ... property, without due process of law;
The classification of terrorism is used to rob people of due process.  Court-ordered or not, seizure of ANY property before or without due process is clearly unconstitutional!  If law enforcement can just ask a judge for the right to seize property without the accused even being able to defend himself first then this cannot be considered due-process by any stretch of the reasonable imagination.
This includes a business’s customer records, diary or a computer. The final and most controversial provision allows the FBI to obtain a court order to wiretap a terrorism suspect who is not connected to any foreign terrorist group or foreign government. Known as the “lone wolf” provision, this authority has never been used by the FBI. Authorization for these provisions was extended through May 2011.
This is an explicit waving of due process and of evidence required specifically by the 5th amendment.  How whacked do things have to get to be considered unconstitutional by you sir!!!?
As you may know, these, and many provisions of the Patriot Act were not made permanent when they were created.
Oh so we can violate rights as long as we do them on a temporary basis?  What difference does the violation of rights make whether temporary or permanent?  Both are in clear violation of your oath of office and the purposes of government outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
Congress wisely included sunsets for these provisions.
So wise sir!  Because we don't know what we are doing, lets just be safe and make it temporary.  That does make sense since the original patriot act was passed with no time to even read the act much less deliberate it. But such knee-jerk panic acts by congress hardly makes them worthy of my support and trust. This provided Congress with the opportunity to conduct frequent and thorough oversight on these policies and to only reauthorize them and revise them as necessary, based on the actual evidence of how they had been implemented.
I understand the views expressed by you and other Idahoans about the possibility of the powers granted under the Patriot Act infringing on civil liberties. Its not just possible - its clear as blood. However, steps must be taken to restructure our government resources so that they are in the best possible position to detect, address, and prevent any future attacks on our country. The government's "resources" are my/our "resources".  The cost of 911 and all other terrorist attacks made on this country since then pale in comparison to the cost we have incurred due to government responses to these acts. 
  • Suspension of all air flight for 90 days
  • Entrance into a protracted war without any official declaration of either war or who the enemy is
  • Imposition of unlawful search and seizure at every airport terminal
  • Violation of the privacy of US citizens via email and phone tapping without any evidence of probable cause of any specific crime
  • Imposition of a national police force in the form of homeland security
  • Billions of dollars of cost in implementing these actions
  • etc.
This can be done without sacrificing personal freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.  We have already lost due process completely with the suspension of habeas corpus in "terrorism" cases.  This is so core to our freedoms that it becomes difficult to find anything left that we can call true freedom.  What is the definition of the legal term terrorist? (see U.S. Code Title 22, Ch.38, Para. 2656f(d)) Upon taking office, I, and every other Senator, must take an oath that states in part, “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I am committed to fulfilling this oath.  Your rhetoric and actions contradict this IMHO.
The goal of protecting Americans’ physical safety where in the constitution does it grant the federal government the duty to protect individual citizen's physical safety at all - except to provide for the common defense?  Keep in mind the strict construction rules of the 10th amendmant.  And where in the hell does it grant the government the right to deprive citizens of their rights to "protect" them?  and protecting the rights and privileges we all enjoy need not be mutually exclusive. I am confident that the Patriot Act was created in a way
that serves its stated purpose, and that will leave law-abiding Americans with no reason to take personal concern for its actions.  Denial of due process to anyone should be of deep concern to every American sir.  If it can be denied to one, it can be denied to any and all.  This is the crux of the Declaration of Independence - that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL in the eyes of the law.  We can't just classify some men as "terrorists" and thus make them unequal in rights without due process first
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please feel free to contact me in the future on this or other matters of interest to you. Will do senator. For more information about the issues before the U.S. Senate as well as news releases, photos, and other items of interest, please visit my Senate website,

Mike Crapo
United States Senator

It has been a pleasure to address this response in detail via this blog.  I will now send another web-form email to Senator Crapo referencing this post.  If I get any kind of cogent response, I will be sure to append it to this post for all to see.

Let me clarify that I don't consider Senator Crapo to be any worse than other senators or representatives we have these days in congress.  Almost without exception, every person in congress is either grossly ignorant of the law or they are so focused on keeping power that their consciences have been seared.
To save this nation will require representatives that are willing to die for liberty - because I believe that is what it will take to turn things around these days.
I truly appreciate the pressures both positive and negative that weigh upon our representatives, especially at the federal level.  But these people need to know that the cost of their compromise of truth and justice will have a penalty to be paid sometime in the future - and that penalty will be painful and my not be that far off in coming.

Something you could easily do, Senator Crapo, to make correspondence more open and useful to those you serve, would be to create a kind of specialized web forum where your constituents (and only your constituents) could openly express their views on a multitude of subjects with openness and organization.  I would suspect that would be most happy to help you in this regard and it would set a wonderful precedence as a great example of transparency in government so often touted these days by various officers of government.


Sanford Staab