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Rep. Ron Paul: Home Security Act Was a Race to Judgment

Friday, 29 November 2002 12:00 AM

Paul, who wryly admits that he has earned the sobriquet, “Dr. No,” was back on duty – this time on the Rush Limbaugh program at the weekend – manning the bulwarks against growing federal encroachments into American privacy and decrying that the bill was not even available in written form but only viewable on an unofficial website.

“It’s not a question of whether members did read it or could have read it.” Paul told substitute host Walter Williams. “They wouldn’t have been able to read it. Even if it were available in written form, it was so complex and couched in such technical language.”

For Rep. Paul, careful reading of legislation is a must, as he believes each piece of legislation must be examined for its constitutionality; that is, on the basis of whether or not the U.S. Constitution allows the Congress or the Federal Government to engage in the actions described by the proposed legislation. If the Constitution does not allow it, then it must be opposed.

When asked on the program if ignorance or contempt for the nation’s oldest guiding document was behind the passage, he answered that it was more a matter of “misinformation.”

“Folks these days have come from an educational system that indoctrinates them that the Constitution is not rigid,” he says.

Another part of that misinformation, Paul maintains, was and is the notion that much of what was in the Act was new. “Most of the things were proposed a while ago,” he says. “Now it’s, as usual, the innocent people that will suffer the intrusions.”

Concern about one of those intrusions was voiced by a listener who was most concerned about how the Homeland Act seemed to push the envelope of privacy even farther than the Patriot Act by allowing investigators to penetrate individual ISPs and review e-mails without a warrant and only under the auspices of “good faith.”

Paul agreed that it was a concern and suggested that his fellow lawmakers were “encouraged by the fact of the recent elections” that suggested that Americans were perhaps impatient for a security bill.

“What should have happened,” says Paul, “is that we should have reacted by saying, ‘Hey wait – let’s hold back awhile.’”

As a matter of record, Paul has from the beginning wanted to take a longer and harder look at some of the security-freedom tradeoffs Americans would be making under the Act:

“HR 5710 grants major new powers to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by granting HHS the authority to ‘administer’ the smallpox vaccine to members of the public if the Department unilaterally determines that there is a public health threat posed by smallpox.

"HHS would not even have to demonstrate an actual threat of a smallpox attack, merely the ‘potential’ of an attack. Thus, this bill grants federal agents the authority to force millions of Americans to be injected with a potentially lethal vaccine based on nothing more than a theoretical potential smallpox incident.”

“Furthermore,” Paul has noted in arguments in the House chamber, “this provision continues to restrict access to the smallpox vaccine from those who have made a voluntary choice to accept the risk of the vaccine in order to protect themselves from smallpox. It is hard to think of a more blatant violation of liberty than allowing government officials to force people to receive potentially dangerous vaccines based on hypothetical risks...”

“HR 5710 also expands the federal police state by allowing the attorney general to authorize federal agency inspectors general and their agents to carry firearms and make warrantless arrests,” Paul added.

“One of the most disturbing trends in recent years is the increase in the number of federal officials authorized to carry guns. This is especially disturbing when combined with the increasing trend toward restricting the ability of average Americans to exercise their second amendment rights. Arming the government while disarming the public encourages abuses of power.”

Rep. Paul likes to point to “You are a Suspect,” a recent article by William Safire in the New York Times. In that article, Safire details the Defense Department's plan to establish a system of "Total Information Awareness."

“According to Mr. Safire,” Paul notes, “once this system is implemented, no American will be able to use the internet to fill a prescription, subscribe to a magazine, buy a book, send or receive e-mail, or visit a web site free from the prying eyes of government bureaucrats.”

“Furthermore,” says Paul, referring to the Safire concerns, “individual internet transactions will be recorded in ‘a virtual centralized grand database.’ Implementation of this project would shred the Fourth Amendment's requirement that the government establish probable cause and obtain a search warrant before snooping into the private affairs of its citizens."

Paul has summed up his feelings on what he perceives an a race to judgment with the Homeland Security Act:

“Congress spent just a few short hours…to create the biggest new federal bureaucracy since World War II, not that the media or even most members of Congress paid much attention to the process. Yet our most basic freedoms as Americans- privacy in our homes, persons, and possessions; confidentiality in our financial and medical affairs; openness in our conversations, telephone, and internet use; unfettered travel; indeed the basic freedom not to be monitored as we go through our daily lives- have been dramatically changed.”

Rep. Paul, known widely in Washington for his unyielding opposition to big government, was honored recently for his defense of civil liberties during the 107th Congress. Paul won the prestigious Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, which is presented annually to individuals who champion the cause of the individual against the growing abusive power of the state.

Paul was chosen in particular for his outspoken resistance to the Patriot Act, which grants the federal government unprecedented surveillance powers over American citizens.

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Paul, who wryly admits that he has earned the sobriquet, "Dr. No," was back on duty this time on the Rush Limbaugh program at the weekend manning the bulwarks against growing federal encroachments into American privacy and decrying that the bill was not even available...
Friday, 29 November 2002 12:00 AM
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