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Let us now praise an odd bedfellow threesome: One Democratic ex-senator, an American citizen in exile, and a current Republican Senator. I don’t think they’ve ever met, yet their separate efforts over 14 years have now guided our ship of state away from some perilous authoritarian straits.
First came Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a former Democratic senator who refused in October 2001 to sacrifice our fundamental liberties to the fears and rank political opportunism that followed the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack. The Bush-Cheney regime was using 9/11 as an excuse to hustle their liberty-busting “USA Patriot Act” into law. But Sen. Feingold dared to object, pointing out that it would impose a 1984-ish secret security state over our people’s freedoms. He was the lone senator to vote “no.”
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Just as he warned, the act proved to be deeply unpatriotic. But Congress, the media, and We the People were kept in the dark about it – until 2013, when a young security analyst named Edward Snowden blew the whistle, revealing that cyber-snoops were collecting and storing all of our phone records. The spy establishment retaliated by forcing Snowden into Russian exile, but their dirty deeds were now exposed, roiling the public and increasing congressional opposition to this wholesale invasion of our privacy.
Enter Rand Paul, a Republican senator and longtime libertarian opponent of Patriot Act madness. That act had to be renewed by June 1, and the establishment assumed no lawmaker would dare block it. But Sen. Paul did, using 11th hour procedural moves to force a rewrite that ended some of its worst intrusions, including the government’s bulk collection your and my phone calls.
Liberty depends on true patriots like Feingold, Snowden, and Paul, who dare to put themselves on the line to steer America away from authoritarianism.
“After 9/11, Few Doubts on Surveillance; Now Congress Weighs Risks vs. Liberty,” The New York Times, June 2, 2015.
“Senate Approves Sharp Curtailing Of Surveillance,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014.
“NSA looks done with phone date collection,” Austin American Statesman, June 2, 2015.
“Bluff Called, McConnell Misplays His Hand in Phone Data Fight,” The New York Times, June 2, 2015.