Edward Snowden’s sacrifice was not in vain – because many thousands in the United States are rising to take up the battle he started. And they mean to win.
At the head of the libertarian army that’s storming the gates of the Leviathan: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), a Ron Paul Republican who won his congressional seat in 2010, and has been in the vanguard of Washington’s young libertarian Turks ever since. And now he has the statist Establishment of both parties fuming, with his amendment to the 2014 defense appropriations bill, the LIBERT-E Act, (H.R. 2399, the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act) which would outlaw the National Security Agency’s data dragnet, amending the Patriot Act to limit data collection to specific US citizens under active investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and declassified summaries of the opinions be made available to the public. With liberal Democrat John Conyers signed on as a co-sponsor, and 32 members of Congress from both parties on board, the libertarian movement’s brightest star in the House has thrown a real monkey wrench into the campaign to minimize and whitewash the vast and unaccountable surveillance system secretly set up by the NSA.
And he’s got the Regimists in a real panic. Just reading that Huffington Post headline – "NSA’s Keith Alexander Calls Emergency Private Briefing To Lobby Against Justin Amash Amendment Curtailing Its Power" – was so thrilling that I had to stop writing this column, for a moment, and just bask.
Think of it: forty or so years ago, when the libertarian movement had only just stopped being big enough to fit inside Murray Rothbard’s living room, we often got feedback like "Oh, I didn’t know the librarians had their own political movement." This morning I read a headline in the Financial Times exclaiming: "Libertarian Republicans Block Pentagon Bill"! Yes, libertarian Republicans – of varying degrees of consistency – in Congress, a small but growing and highly visible vanguard of liberty, which calls itself the Liberty Caucus. And in the fight against the Surveillance State, they are getting support from progressives with a conscience, who are daring to break with this administration over its draconian approach to civil liberties. That’s what has NSA snoop-in-chief Keith Alexander in such a last-minute lather, getting Rep. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-Maryland) to call a special top secret briefing for members of Congress:
"The invitation warned members that they could not share what they learned with their constituents or others. ‘The briefing will be held at the Top Secret/SCI level and will be strictly Members-Only,’ reads the invite."
It’s impossible to parody these people – every time they open their mouths they give themselves away. To anyone outside Washington, D.C., this reads like an invitation to a Soviet Politboro meeting, circa 1933. Is this the kind of government Americans want? I hardly think so. We may be decadent epigones of our pioneer ancestors, effete pushovers for any freebie-promising politico, but Americans aren’t ready for Brezhnevism quite yet.
Ruppersberger, a reliable supporter of the administration who represents a Maryland district with many thousands of NSA employees (NSA headquarters is in Ft. Meade) has defended the NSA’s spying by declaring "if you have to find a needle in a haystack, you need the haystack" – as succinct a justification for an authoritarian state as has ever been uttered.
The stakes are high – higher than they’ve ever been. And libertarians have a key role to play in this unfolding drama. The libertarian congressional leadership has taken the initiative, with Rep. Amash and Sen. Rand Paul both introducing legislation to roll back the NSA and stand up for the Bill of Rights. Nothing less than the future of the republic is at stake. Which is why grassroots libertarians, and the growing number of liberals and conservatives who never knew we were so close to total tyranny, must back them up. The vote on the LIBERT-E Act is likely coming up on Wednesday – that’s tomorrow. So please – call your congressional representatives.
Don’t know what number to call? Find out here.
Listen to me: this is important. When I heard about this effort – and Amash’s procedural victory in getting this bill on the congressional calendar – I dropped my previous plan to write a column on another topic and insisted they post this one early, so we can get a good jump on the vote and really have an effect. When you call, specific that you are urging a vote for H.R. 2399, an amendment to the defense appropriations bill, that would scale back the powers of the NSA. Be nice, and be brief.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).