A Real Libertarian vs. Cato on the “Protect America Act”

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That the Cato Intitute still calls itself a “libertarian think tank” is increasingly becoming one huge farce. The latest example of this farce is Roger Pilon’s defense in the War Street Journal of the abolition of the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless wiretaps, under Bush’s “Protect America Act.” In contrast to this Catotalitarian argument, here’s what a real libertarian, Judge Andrew Napolitano, has to say about it in his book, A Nation of Sheep (p. 175):

“As I write this, Congress has just voted . . . to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) so as to purport to give the president the legal authority to spy on Americans by listening to our telephone conversations and monitoring our computer keystrokes when we communicate with persons outside the United States, without a warrant issued by a judge . . . . I wrote above ‘purport to give’ because Congress lacks the authority to enable the president to spy on Americans without a search warrant. The Constitution prohibits such behavior, and Congress canot change the Constitution. Period.”“The Fourth Amendment was written because the Founders were sick and tired of British soldiers writing their own search warrants as a pretext for coming onto the colonists’ property, even when there was no demonstrable evidence of criminal activity . . .”

“The Fourth Amendment puts a neutral judge between the government and its target . . . . The Constitution requires the government to demonstrate probable cause of a crime before a judge can authorize unleashing the government’s use of force. The Fourth Amendment regulates that monopoly. It is Fourth Amendment protections that have saved us and all past generations of Americans from the knock on the door in the middle of the night.”

Those who support the totalitarian “Protect America Act,” says Judge Napolitano, are simply corrupted by power, as Lord Acton warned. They do not seek power “to liberate or to preserve freedom, but for the internal gratification that its exercise affords . . .”

9:07 pm on January 28, 2008