Just like when the Republicans were upset that the sequester they voted for would actually affect them and so they voted to fix that specific part, when it came out that the Department of Justice used the Patriot Act to secretly obtain phone records of the Associated Press, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) admitted that there is at least one more amendment to the Constitution besides the 2nd. What he complained about is what supporters of civil rights complained about before and after passage of the Patriot Act. Now that it is being used to investigate a friend of the Republican Party, the GOP is upset.
Exactly ten days ago, President Barack Obama was piously telling reporters who cover him that free speech and an independent press are “essential pillars of our democracy.” On Monday, the Associated Press accused his administration of undermining that very pillar by secretly obtaining two months’ worth of telephone records of AP reporters and editors.
The revelations that the Justice Department may have sought AP phone records drew an angry response from Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s office. “The First Amendment is first for a reason. If the Obama Administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
It’s great that Speak Boehner now believes there is a First Amendment but he seems to forget that the Patriot Act can be used to get phone records without a court order under the name of “National Security”:
A national security letter (NSL) is a demand letter, which differs from a subpoena. It can be used by US government agencies, mainly the FBI, when investigating matters related to national security. It is issued to a particular entity or organization to turn over various records and data pertaining to individuals. NSLs can only request non-content information, such as transactional records, phone numbers dialed or email addresses mailed to and from. They also contain a gag order, preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued. The gag order was ruled unconstitutional as an infringement of free speech in the Doe v. Gonzales case, but this decision was superseded by the Second Circuit Court after the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act gave recipients of NSL gag orders recourse in court.
And the concern over these National security letters aren’t new:
According to a report in the Washington Post today [01-19-2010], the FBI routinely claimed false terrorism emergencies to illegally collect the phone records of Americans for four years of the Bush administration by abusing an already expansive Patriot Act power. Using “exigent letters,” or emergency letters, to gain private records for investigations when no emergency existed, the FBI seemingly violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The FBI also routinely issued National Security Letters (NSLs) after the fact in an attempt to legitimize the use of exigent letters.
The NSL statute, widely broadened with the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001, allows the FBI to secretly demand personal records about innocent customers from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), communications service providers, financial institutions and credit reporting agencies without suspicion or prior judicial approval. The statute also allows the FBI to bar NSL recipients from disclosing anything about the record demand.
Once more I would love to see the Republicans get concerned about stuff that affects us commoners like warrantless searches and need for more jobs, for example.