In the last election cycle of 2008, the Democratic Party issued its platform entitled “Renewing America’s Promise. In that platform, the Democrats made the following pledge:
Our Constitution is not a nuisance. It is the foundation of our democracy. It makes freedom and
self-governance possible, and helps to protect our security. The Democratic Party will restore our Constitution to its proper place in our government and return our Nation to our best traditions–including our commitment to government by law….
As we combat terrorism, we must not sacrifice the American values we are fighting to protect. In recent years, we’ve seen an Administration put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. The Democratic Party rejects this dichotomy. We will restore our constitutional traditions, and recover our nation’s founding commitment to liberty under law.
We support constitutional protections and judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans. We will review the current Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. We reject illegal wiretapping of American citizens, wherever they live. We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. We reject torture. We reject sweeping claims of “inherent” presidential power. We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years.
Since Barack Obama and the 111th Congress took office, the FBI has begun a newly expanded operation of spying on innocent people in their churches, workplaces and political meetings. The FBI also released a new memo declaring diminishing Americans’ First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly to be “acceptable.” On top of that, revelations surfaced that the FBI had lied, broken the law and violated the Constitution in order to nab information about reporters’ communications, all in the effort to find the source of a politically embarrassing leak. In the meantime, the Obama Administration won the right to read through your e-mail without your permission or without even notifying you. Under the Obama Administration, the NSA continues to collect and analyze information on Americans’ communications without a warrant, even though such activity is illegal. Barack Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, testified in his 2009 confirmation hearing that his only regret regarding warrantless surveillance legislation was that it wasn’t passed sooner. As the Obama Administration made moves to open a “National Applications Office” to initiate satellite-based surveillance of Americans, only two Democrats in the entire U.S. Congress did anything to counter it. In the first half of 2009, the collection of warrantless “suspicious activity reports” on Americans’ financial transactions reached an all-time high. And in April of 2009, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to make it impossible to change any aspect of the Patriot Act without a 60-vote supermajority.
Yesterday, to top it off, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions without any reform to them. This passage was made via voice vote, a move for secrecy so that no one could track the vote of a specific senator on the issue. The vote to make American citizens’ private lives transparent to the U.S. Government was made in a way to make American senators’ votes opaque to U.S. citizens.
The 2008 promise by Democrats to reform warrantless wiretapping, intrusive surveillance, restore constitutional protections, reject national security letters and reform the Patriot Act has not simply been forgotten. The promise has been broken.