UK paper: Americans’ constitutional liberties have been trashed for the war on drugs

It’s kind of sad that if you want to really see how Americans have lost their liberty, you are more likely to read about it in another country’s newspaper.

A patriotic duty: repeal the Patriot Act by Jennifer Abel in the Guardian (UK)

The first thing you need to understand about the Patriot Act is this: Osama Bin Laden’s destruction of the World Trade Centre wasn’t the reason the act was passed; it was merely the excuse. The real reason dates back to the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan demonstrated his principled commitment to personal liberty and small government by turning the “war on drugs” up to 11.

Of course, the constitution as it’s written makes drug laws difficult to enforce. Police learn about most crimes – real crimes – when the victims report them to the police. But there’s no victim to complain when a willing buyer purchases a product from a willing seller, so drug cops looking to make arrests and justify their existence had to resort to privacy violations and fishing expeditions instead.

Then came the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the most horrific in my country’s history. But it was also the answer to every drug warrior’s prayers: they finally got the unconstitutional powers they craved, and under a spiffy patriotic acronym to boot.

Jennifer Abel notes that even with the end of Bin Laden and the lack of international support for al-Quida, the Patriot Act isn’t likely to go away, “because the Patriot Act was never about Bin Laden in the first place.”


But come on now, there were all sorts of politicians grudgingly accepting the Patriot Act as a short term requirement that objected to the sheer magnitude of the rights infringement. Surely now that Bin Laden is dead, they’ll at least discuss it, right?

Glenn Greenwald last night:

Tonight, a cloture vote was taken in the Senate on the four-year extension and it passed by a vote of 74-8. The law that was once the symbolic shorthand for evil Bush/Cheney post-9/11 radicalism just received a vote in favor of its four-year, reform-free extension by a vote of 74-8. [...]

But what’s most notable isn’t the vote itself, but the comments made afterward. Sen. Paul announced that he was considering using delaying tactics to hold up passage of the bill in order to extract some reforms (including ones he is co-sponsoring with the Democrats’ Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy, who — despite voicing “concerns” about the bill — voted for cloture). Paul’s announcement of his delaying intentions provoked this fear-mongering, Terrorism-exploiting, bullying threat from the Democrats’ Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein:

“I think it would be a huge mistake,” Feinstein told reporters. “If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear.”

In other words: Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passage or else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause. That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly

And these folks take an oath to defend the Constitution.

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