Cato Institute on Homeland Security



Bar the government from indiscriminate bulk surveillance

The privacy community--including Cato scholars--remained divided over the USA Freedom Act, which reauthorized several expiring Patriot Act provisions, but limited bulk data collection.

Some legislators argued that to pass new legislation would only provide the government convenient new legal justification for its spying--which it would interpret broadly. One Cato scholar wrote that it "would effectively represent a repeat of the Protect America Act fiasco of the previous decade--an act of Congress that made legal a previously illegal surveillance program that did exactly nothing to protect the country, while costing billions and subjecting Americans to continued mass surveillance. Real Patriot Act 'reform' should substantively bar the government from indiscriminate bulk surveillance. Anything less risks laying the groundwork for another decade of abuse."

On the opposite side of the argument stood some pro-privacy groups who held that modest reforms were better than no reforms at all

Source: Cato Institute 2015 voting recommendation on USA Freedom Act , Oct 1, 2015

Dragnet definition of terrorism is unconstitutional

Many Americans are unaware that the NDAA allows the government (its military) to whisk a citizen away with no reason other than being suspected of terrorism--and without any appearance before a court.

That it is unconstitutional. Why? Look at the Bill of Rights, The Fourth Amendment grants liberty from unreasonable seizures, while the Sixth guarantees every US citizen a trial in front of a jury.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse issued this report in Sept. 2009: "Federal agencies can't seem to agree on who is a terrorist and who is not. The failure has potentially serious implications, weakening efforts to use the criminal law to combat terrorism and at the same time undermining civil liberties."

[We need a] new generation of constitutionalists to focus on this sweepingly dangerous federal government incompetence that undermines national security and personal liberty. A range of civil liberties organizations should now get after this dragnet definition of terrorists.

Source: Nat Hentoff on Cato Institute website, www.cato.org , Dec 5, 2012

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Page last updated: Apr 30, 2021