Don't Mention It: Patriot Act

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ahead of the 2008 election, the Patriot Act was a major campaign issue. “I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom," then-Senator Obama said in 2007. "That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens, no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime, no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war, no more breaking the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are and that is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists.”

Once he was in office, though, President Obama quietly reinforced the measures laid out by the Bush Administration in the Patriot Act, using an autopen to sign an extension of the Patriot Act. Now, nearly four years later, any substantive discussion of the Patriot Act is all but missing from the campaign trail.

How did this hot issue become a non-issue? Has the country forgotten about the Patriot Act? Or do the candidates just hope that we have? Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University's School of Law, takes a closer look as part of The Takeaway's Don't Mention It Series.

"It's interesting that in the wake of the killing of Bin Laden, that Obama chose to sign those provisions, and to continue them into the future," Greenberg says."And neither then, nor since then, has there been any discussion, substantive or otherwise."

Professor Greenberg says that the Patriot Act calls into question a whole slew of Constitutional protections by allowing for searches without warrants, and adopting a "quantity over quality" approach. Rather than using intelligence and targeting those who are legitimate suspects, she says the strategy since September 11th has been tap phones first, ask questions later. "It used to be that if you wanted to target an individual for a particular terrorist activity, you would have to tie them, let's say, to a foreign terrorist organization. You no longer necessary have to do that, you just have to suspect them."

Professor Greenberg says that perhaps voters are not focused on the Patriot Act in this upcoming election, because it doesn't seem to pertain to most Americans. But she believes that compromising on Constitutional protections is a slippery slope. "Once you start to say, well, you know, maybe we shouldn't honor Miranda Rights," she says, "you begin to open up a whole conversation that we don't want to have resolution on."  

Guests:

Karen Greenberg

Produced by:

Maggie Penman, Mythili Rao and Elizabeth Ross

Comments [4]

A REAL democrat

Democrats here are trying hard to protect their boss when he's critisised for his Patriot act loving. This undemocratic act should be repealed immediately. But the president would NEVER do that, and neither would Romney It gives the government to mush power against the people, and they would NEVER give up this power. Just take of your damn partyglasses, who blinds you, you should se that too!

Oct. 17 2012 07:32 AM
A REAL democrat

Democrats here are trying hard to protect their boss when he's critisised for his Patriot act loving. This undemocratic act should be repealed imedietley. But the pesident would NEVER do that and neither would Romney It gives the government to mush power againt the the people. Just take of your damn partyglasses, who blinds you, you should se that too!

Oct. 17 2012 07:27 AM
Angel from Miami, FL

I think the "Don't Metion It" series is a comedy series. Am I right? Journalists from all directions have been on these candidates for months and months and have never brought up these issues. As reporters you've all become extensions of the candidate's public relations offices. Sometimes you're a bullhorn for one side. Sometimes you're a blunt weapon for the other side. To fill the airwaves with trite stories about Brit royalty and tired gaffes you have to cancel out other stories like Gitmo, Patriot Act, and gun violence. Really, folks? Really?! Myopic self-analysis. Maybe this series is a satire, not a rom-com.

If the news cycle is actually 24 hours then there seems to be plenty of time to address these "forgotten" stories/issues. Seriously!

Oct. 05 2012 09:47 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Having lived through 9-11, and having a family of Holocaust Survivors, I become conservative around the issue of the safety of my fellow Americans.

If The President doesn't feel it is time to get rid of the Patriot Act, then it must not be time yet. I'm sure people's rights are abused, but I am sure that the security of the country is at risk without it, otherwise Obama would have done away with it.

Oct. 04 2012 11:12 AM

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