cross-posted from the Pennsylvania Tenth Amendment Center

On September 21, a federal court recognized what we all knew already (well, OK, everyone except the president and the geniuses in congress…).  The PATRIOT Act is an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment tothe US Constitution.  As MSNBC reports,

Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, “now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”

Earlier in the year, when the house was voting on whether or not to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, I contacted my representative in the House of Representatives, Congressman Patrick Meehan.  I asked him to vote against this unconstitutional abuse of power.  I received this e-mail in reply.

February 28, 2011

Dear Mr. Palmer:

Thank you for contacting me regarding recent legislative activity pertaining to the PATRIOT Act.  I appreciate hearing from you and having the benefit of your views.  Recently, I joined 274 of my colleagues in a bipartisan vote to temporarily extend three provisions of the PATRIOT Act and the related Intelligence Reform Act that were set to expire at the end of February.  Section 215, the “Business Records Provision,” enables the FBI to apply for FISA court approval to access books, records, and other “tangible things” in intelligence and terrorism cases. Section 206, the “Roving Wiretaps Provision,” authorizes FISA courts to order multi-point wiretaps that follow an individual person rather than a single, specific communications device.  Section 6001, the “Lone Wolf Provision,” permits the surveillance of foreign terrorists who cannot be directly linked to an identifiable foreign power or terror organization.

Before becoming a member of Congress, I had the honor of serving as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Sworn into that office only five days after the September 11th attacks, I was on the forefront of federal law enforcement as we began to adjust to the new reality of terrorism in the 21st -century global community.  As such, I have an appreciation for the intricate nature of protecting against the myriad of security threats in our rapidly changing world, while firmly upholding the Constitutional civil liberties that are essential to American freedom.

Since its passage nearly a decade ago, the PATRIOT Act has been scrutinized and debated extensively.  Even so, there are popular misconceptions that lead many to doubt whether the privacy and liberty of Americans is in fact being protected.  These three provisions which have been temporarily extended are the most often criticized PATRIOT Act sections, and even these criticisms are based on misinformation.  Searches under the Business Records Provision require FISA court warrants, and are subject to Congressional oversight, procedural protections, and a judicial review process.  Use of Roving Wiretaps has been upheld in domestic criminal cases since the 1980s—this law merely extends them to foreign intelligence cases.  The Lone Wolf Provision authority cannot apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents under any circumstance.  Because it is imperative, however, that we are absolutely certain our national security procedures do not infringe on Constitutional l! iberties (sic), Congress has extended these provisions on a temporary basis, so that further debate and consideration can take place.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact my office with your opinion on this matter. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. For your convenience, you can receive further information about issues important to the Seventh District at


Patrick Meehan

Member of Congress

Congressman Meehan’s remark about the bipartisan vote, reminded me of one of the entries in my first Passing Thoughts blog post,

Washington speak:
(R) legislation = people protected by democrats,
(D) legislation = people protected by republicans,
bipartisan legislation = people getting screwed.

But aside from that, now that the court has confirmed that the law violates the Fourth Amendment, I thought it would be interesting to look and see how Pennsylvania’s legislators voted when they had their chance to protectthe Constitution.  Here are the votes from the house on reauthorizing the Patriot Act in February:

PA    1    Rep. Robert Brady     Democratic    N
PA    2    Rep. Chaka Fattah Sr.    Democratic    N
PA    3    Rep. Mike Kelly     Republican    Y
PA    4    Rep. Jason Altmire     Democratic    Y
PA    5    Rep. Glenn Thompson Jr.    Republican    Y
PA    6    Rep. Jim Gerlach     Republican    Y
PA    7    Rep. Patrick Meehan     Republican    Y
PA    8    Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick     Republican    N
PA    9    Rep. Bill Shuster     Republican    Y
PA    10    Rep. Thomas Marino     Republican    Y
PA    11    Rep. Louis Barletta     Republican    Y
PA    12    Rep. Mark Critz     Democratic    Y
PA    13    Rep. Allyson Schwartz     Democratic    Y
PA    14    Rep. Michael Doyle Jr.    Democratic    N
PA    15    Rep. Charles Dent     Republican    Y
PA    16    Rep. Joseph Pitts     Republican    Y
PA    17    Rep. Tim Holden     Democratic    Y
PA    18    Rep. Timothy Murphy     Republican    Y
PA    19    Rep. Todd Platts     Republican    Y

And here is how our senators voted:

PA    Jr    Sen. Patrick Toomey     Republican    Y
PA    Sr    Sen. Robert Casey Jr.    Democratic    Y

All but four voted against the Constitution.  Another vote was held in May with identical votes from the Pennsylvania legislators.  Congressman Meehan was right on one point.  It certainly is bipartisan legislation.

Steve Palmer

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