In the America I Know and Love, the Government Must First Prove We Are Guilty, Not Treat Us as Guilty

From the office of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Roscoe Bartlett voted “no” against H.R. 3199. This bill would make permanent 14 provisions and extend for 10 years two other extremely controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act that would eradicate vital protections of Americans’ civil liberties. “In the America that I know and love, the government must first prove we are guilty, not treat us as guilty,” said Congressman Bartlett.

Congressman Bartlett said, “Contrary to our history, our Constitution, and cherished legal principles, this bill gives the government vague sweeping powers, instead of specific limitations. It does not contain effective checks and balances on these powers. None of these extraordinary expansions of power for the government should be made permanent.”

“The presumption of our innocence until the government first proves we are guilty is a bedrock principle of our nation,” said Congressman Bartlett. “This inaccurately named bill reverses this fundamental concept. I refuse to eradicate the constitutional protections that safeguard all of our rights as individuals. These are the rights that have made us a free society for more than 200 years. Under this so-called PATRIOT Act, each of us faces the prospect that the government could treat us as guilty with very little evidence. It could investigate us in secret based upon unproven complaints against us. That puts all of us as individuals at risk and at the mercy of any disgruntled neighbor or coworker who alleges we are involved in terrorist activity. It could be me today, or a neighbor or member of a labor union or church group tomorrow. No one can say where it would end. In fact, there is no end in this bill.”

Congressman Bartlett said, “Supporters argue Americans should have no ‘sanctuaries’ of privacy. The government should be allowed to investigate us and search for evidence against us anywhere with as few limitations as possible. With this permanent expansion of government powers, we will no longer have areas, such as our homes, that deserve greater privacy protections. That is not the America that I know and love.”