Tonight's State of the Union address served up some high-minded rhetoric that falls far short of the reality that has been created by the President's actions. Neither the President's call to renew the Patriot Act in its current form nor his aggressive defense of warrantless, illegal eavesdropping by the National Security Agency reflects the requirements of the Constitution, which is the binding will of the American people. Although the President continues to insist that his Administration does and will continue to protect the civil liberties of Americans, repeatedly saying it is so does not make it so. Neither continuing to illegally eavesdrop on our conversations, nor gathering evidence on citizens without any suspicion they have done anything wrong, is an action that protects civil liberties.
While I agree that enforcing strong anti-terrorism measures should be a national priority, so too should protecting the basic constitutional freedoms of our citizens. Failing to amend the controversial record search provisions of the Patriot Act would deny all Americans their Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Failing to check the administration's authorization of intelligence investigators to operate above the law not only sets a disturbing precedent for administrations to come, but severely undermines our government's system of checks and balances. As Congress prepares to make a decision on Patriot Act reauthorization before Friday, February 3, I hope that lawmakers withstand pressure from the administration and instead support a bill that contains meaningful privacy protections to safeguard the fundamental freedoms of all Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike.