With all of the national security revelations of the last year, it is a really lousy debate point to suggest that those who want to protect Americans from government surveillance are on the side of the terrorists.
In a debate on WGIR-AM on Wednesday morning, candidates for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 1st District got into a brief discussion of national security and civil liberties. Dan Innis brought up the issue, saying he would have voted against the Patriot Act because it violated the First, Second and Fourth a mendments.
Former Rep. Frank Guinta, who in 2011 voted to extend the Patriot Act, responded forcefully. “Let me say, you either stand with the terrorists or you stand with freedom and protecting Americans,” he said.
We were a little surprised that Guinta did not follow his comment by pulling a bald eagle out of his suit jacket and playing a snippet of Lee Greenwood’s “I’m proud to be an American” on his smartphone. And how can one be against freedom by arguing that the law must not trample constitutionally guaranteed freedoms?
That kind of knee-jerk patriotism, a desperate effort to end debate (and thought) on a serious issue, is how we wound up with the current surveillance state, which ought to trouble everyone. That it does not appear to trouble Guinta is concerning.
For his part, Innis was playing some clever politics — just like a pro. After the Edward Snowden revelations, it is easy to say that the Patriot Act went way too far. But at the time things were not so clear.
Approaching 13 years after the Patriot Act’s passage, Congress has yet to strike the right balance between security and liberty. We need to keep debating this issue.
Suggesting that Americans who want stronger protections from government snooping “stand with the terrorists” is not helpful.