Some of the greatest gifts of the Founding generation were the individual liberties we all now enjoy and the political system that allowed these liberties to mature, evolve and become entrenched in our society. The Founders realized that the greatest threat to individual liberty was the centralization of power in any one person or branch of government, and accordingly separated political power among the president, Congress, the courts and the states into a system of intricate checks and balances.
The terrible and tragic attacks of 9/11, however, continue to resonate deeply around the country and in the halls of power in Washington. Their unfortunate byproduct has been a series of new counterterrorism and national security policies and laws that threaten the very checks and balances that have made America the foremost defender of individual liberties in the world.
We believe that America is stronger than many think. We believe that our political system can still maintain our security while maximizing the freedoms that are our birthright. Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances is independent of party or ideology. Our message is universal: individual liberties are not negotiable, even in the face of terrorism.
In particular, Congress must resist the current push to make permanent the expiring provisions in the 2001 counterterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, and should deliberate at length before deciding whether to reauthorize any of the "sunseted" provisions in the law. Our lawmakers should also fix other provisions of the Patriot Act, including those authorizing secret search warrants and an overbroad definition of domestic terrorism, which could sweep in political protesters.
Perhaps most important, however, Congress should use the debate about the sunsets as a springboard into a broader conversation about the health of checks and balances post-9/11. We need a discussion about whether the courts adequately supervise the federal government's surveillance authority and whether the FBI is focusing its investigative resources on terrorists, instead of on everyone else. Government data mining shrinks the zone of privacy that people have traditionally enjoyed and airport security measures that intrude on passenger privacy might not be the most effective ones.
America - the most wonderful powerful nation in history - can wage an effective war on terrorism without locking up its own citizens without access to their families and their attorney, and without trial or charges.
We invite you to join us in our efforts to restore checks and balances in America. You will be included in our mailing list and will receive periodic updates and calls to action from PRCB. Thank you for your interest.