Former libertarian Enemy Number One Bob Barr never ceases to amaze me. He seems to have moved on from prosecutions for blow jobs and marijuana to much more serious issues, and many of us greatly appreciate the change. As a stalwart conservative, his consistent and vocal opposition to the Patriot Act has been extremely significant. From his latest on the topic:
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution stands for the fundamental principle that the government cannot gather evidence against a person unless it has some tangible reason to believe that the person has violated the law (and that could include associating with terrorists). This reflects the principle that we are each, as citizens in a free society, clothed with a “sphere of privacy” that the government cannot “pierce” without a reason. If we were to take the position, reflected in provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act, that the government can invade our privacy and gather evidence that can be used against us based on no suspicion whatsoever that we’ve done anything wrong, but simply because the government wants to gather evidence as part of some generalized, “anti-terrorism” or “foreign intelligence” investigation, then we will have rendered that Fourth Amendment principle essentially meaningless. That is why this debate is so important.
This debate is extremely important, and we all need to continue to stir these coals. Barr also commended his old friend Randy “Duke” Cunningham. The kudos were not for being guilty of bribery, but for standing up like a man and admitting his wrongdoing. Now Barr wants to hold the Bush government to the same standard. He wrote this in an AJC column:
We now know that our government, which misses no opportunity to tout the great strides the Iraqi people are making toward building a free society, has been secretly paying Iraqi journalists to disseminate self-serving stories about how great things are over there. Apparently, we expect the Iraqis (and the rest of the world that is watching with great interest how we comport ourselves in Iraq) to watch what we say – “a free press is essential to a free society” – not what we do – control the Iraqi media to serve our needs.
When he addressed this problem this week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a graduate of the Bush School of the Never-Admitted Error, refused to take responsibility and instead blamed the contractors who placed the stories in the Iraqi press, for not placing them properly (after all, the U.S. company responsible for placing the self-serving articles has only a $6 million contract for its work; hardly enough to do an adequate job). If Cunningham had been secretary of Defense, and he was caught with his hand in the Iraqi inkwell, at least he’d admit a mistake was made, and heads would roll, perhaps even his own.
I’ve been arguing for years that it is time for a lot of heads to roll, but Barr has long been removed from my personal to-be-lopped list.