Last night Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey had some bitter words for his likely rival, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). He said those words at a town hall meeting in Derry, N.H., according to The Boston Herald. He spoke of the “misguided ideology” of Sen. Paul and others. But Christie, not Paul, needs something, or some-One, better to guide him. First, Christie has it wrong about what the Freedom Act, that replaces the Patriot Act, does. Second, he is thinking like a dictator, not the leader of a free people.
What Chris Christie said
The Herald article quotes Chris Christie on Senator Paul and the Patriot Act. He defends the Act as not breaching anyone’s civil liberties. For that, he cites his own experience. Specifically, he did serve as United States Attorney for the New Jersey district from 2002 through 2009. He says he used to prosecute and convict terrorists. And he says the Patriot Act let him gather evidence he could not otherwise gather.
They’d make you believe there are people every day listening to your conversation between you and your mother. Unless your mother is a terrorist, I don’t care.
The USA Freedom Act does not satisfy him. He says that Act makes the country “weaker.” Why? Because the telcos, not the Utah Data Center, hold the telephone metadata dossiers.
Christie said the same on May 22, in Oklahoma, according to The Bergen Record (or actually according to the Statehouse Bureau. This Bureau seems to work like a reporting pool for New Jersey reporters covering State officials for The Record and The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.) To The Record he called the Patriot Act’s critics “intellectual purists worried about theoretical abuses that haven’t occurred.” Then he suggested those same Senators, probably including Sen. Paul, would scream for a few scalps if another terrorist attack happened. (This might have prompted Sen. Paul to charge, on the floor of the Senate, that some of his critics wanted another 9/11. They then could come out with the there-you-sees.)
Chris Christie, back at you
Governor Christie damages his dignity with such talk. To begin with: if he has prosecuted and convicted terrorists, and specifically used evidence only the Patriot Act let him gather, let him cite the cases. He did not in fact make himself famous prosecuting and convicting terrorists. He made himself famous sending federal agents to haul Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger out of his office in handcuffs. Later he prosecuted several aides to Governor Jon S. Corzine. He then ran against Corzine in 2009 and won election as Governor. Never once did he make prosecuting terrorists part of his campaign pitch. Why does he wait to say that now?
As it happens, CNAV can cite a case: U.S. v. Banach, 2007. A man and his son played with a laser pointer. They happened to light up a helicopter. Federal agents arrested him and prosecuted him under the Patriot Act. His lawyer, Gina L. Mendola Longarzo, describes the case. If it sounds like a replay of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, maybe it was. According to her, “hundreds of years of protections and jurisprudence for the criminally accused” did not avail Mr. Banach anything. Thank the Patriot Act for that.
Second, he completely mistakes the effect of the so-called Act for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring.” According to that Act, the National Security Agency may no longer collect “telephony metadata” in its huge electronic vault in Utah. Instead, the telephone companies must do this. And the telcos, having no curbs on their behavior, will research you to the nth degree. They then will snitch on you when the government asks them to.
Chris Christie says these things because he does not think like a free man. He thinks like a government official. In one sense he never left the office of United States Attorney for New Jersey. (Nick Purpura, an activist living in central New Jersey, speculated to CNAV years ago that Chris Christie really hopes to be Attorney General.) So he suspects everyone. If Senator Paul suspects the government of breaking the Fourth Amendment, Christie suspects someone, somewhere, will attack America as they could not attack a closed country that does “listen to your conversation between you and your mother.”
He should read what Benjamin Franklin said about people selling essential liberty to buy temporary safety. He also should get his story straight. The FBI had to admit the Patriot Act did not help them crack any major case. So CNAV begs to repeat: if Chris Christie put any terrorist away, using evidence the Patriot Act let him gather that he never could gather without it, let him cite the case. CNAV cites a case in which the Patriot Act turned a man having fun in his back yard into a terrorist in the eyes of the law. A case the New Jersey United States Attorney’s office prosecuted while Chris Christie held that post.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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