"For the sake of the children"
By Lisa S. Dean
For the past eight years Republicans and conservatives have been beating up on the Clinton Administration for being so pro-big government and with good reason. No Administration in recent history has taken the slogan "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" more literally than Clinton has, nor has any Administration in history been likened to George Orwell's 1984 more than Clinton's. Every program has been in the name of protecting children, or fighting the drug wars or protecting national security and those same programs have done very little to correct those problems but have done quite a lot to erode our Constitutionally guaranteed liberties.
Therefore the criticisms by Republicans and conservatives are not without merit, in fact, many were on target.
So that's why it is beyond appalling to see Republicans and conservatives now engaging in the same sort of activity - in the name of protecting kids, fighting the drug war and protecting national security.
On October 1, 1997 President Clinton instituted the National Directory of New Hires, better known as "the deadbeat dads database". It would require every employer in the U.S. to report the personal information it collects on every new employee whether full or part time to the federal government.
This information would then be added to the database, allegedly, Clinton said, for the purpose of catching those parents who didn't pay child support. At the time, an official for the Department of Health and Human Services called it the largest effort on the part of the federal government to collect personal data on its citizens.
This pitiful attempt at protecting our nation's children also took away some of the privacy we as citizens have enjoyed in our lives because now the federal government keeps tabs on where you work, what your responsibilities are and so forth. At the time of the database's institution, many Republicans and conservatives were outraged at this big government intrusion into our lives and we naïvely thought their outrage was directed at the big-government Democrats. Now we realize that it was just directed at Democrats.
Rep. Nancy Johnson, a Republican from Connecticut has introduced "The Child Support Distribution Act of 2000", a bill that supposedly helps children by making sure their deadbeat parents pay their child support. Sounds all well and good. It does something else too. It expands the use of the National Directory of New Hires while further eroding the Constitutional rights of the rest of us. In addition to the personal information already being collected by the government, this bill would also allow financial institutions to get into the act. The same financial institutions that are legally permitted and encouraged to monitor your account and report you to the federal government if they think you might be committing a crime now will be able to cooperate with the government if they believe you are a deadbeat. So the bottom line is that, in addition to the federal government having your personal information on file to be shared with whomever it chooses, they will also have your financial information such as income and where you spend your money, not to mention what you spend it on. A proponent of the bill referred to it as a "conservative answer to the problem." Funny but since when have conservatives looked to Big Brother to solve the nation's problems? I guess it's okay - after all, it's a Republican taking away our rights in the name of children, rather than a Democrat.
Now, in case that example didn't convince you, allow me to offer another.
H.R. 2987 the "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999" was offered by Rep. Chris Cannon, a Republican and co-sponsored by conservative Members Asa Hutchinson, Charles Canady and Matt Salmon on the House side and in the Senate, a similar measure was introduced by conservative Republican Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri.
While the bill is designed to better equip law enforcement to stop drug trafficking and shut down methamphetamine labs, it does more. It shuts down the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. A section of the bill deals with Notice Clarification and traditionally that refers to the issuance of search warrants and court orders by a judge to law enforcement, in accordance with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. However, H.R. 2987 seems to agree with the Justice Department's "we need a Fourth Amendment for the Information Age" viewpoint and tramples all over the one that our Founding Fathers gave us.
Under current law, owners must be immediately notified if any seizure of their property takes place by law enforcement conducting a criminal search.
That includes your residence, your offices, your vehicles or any other property you may have. H.R. 2987 rescinds that portion of the law and allows for law enforcement to search and seize your property without having to inform you, the owner of the property, all in the name of fighting the war on drugs. Even though the section is included in a bill that is related to methamphetamines, it does not apply strictly to that type of investigation. I don't know about you but I would put that in the category of "unreasonable search and seizure".
We're told that "the era of Big Government is over" and the era of bipartisanship has finally arrived, but quite frankly, I don't see much of a difference between the two. But in the rare event that anyone hears a Republican open his mouth to speak against a Democrat, the only honest words we could possibly hear him say would be, "Hello Mr. Kettle, I'm Mr. Pot. You're black."
Lisa Dean is Vice President for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.
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