(House of Representatives - June 27, 2013)

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[Pages H4086-H4087]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                         FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
California (Mr. McClintock) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Speaker, three major developments have occurred 
within the last 6 weeks that are each disturbing by themselves, but 
extremely alarming when viewed together.
  The first was the revelation that for more than 2 years, one of the 
most powerful and feared agencies of the Federal Government was used to 
harass and intimidate individual Americans into silence because of 
their political beliefs. Evidence has already established that hundreds 
of conservative groups were subjected to invasive interrogations when 
they sought to participate in the political process. This pattern of 
conduct was not limited to applications under section 501(c) but 
included audits of established conservative groups and individuals, as 
well. This conduct reached the highest levels of the IRS. A similar 
pattern of abuse has been documented in several other agencies, 
including the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection 
Agency. These facts are undisputed, and their implications are utterly 
toxic to a free society.
  The second development was news that the Justice Department had 
surreptitiously seized the telephone records of some 20 reporters 
covering Congress for the Associated Press in an obvious attempt to 
discourage whistleblowers from talking to the press. Fox News reporter 
James Rosen and his family were stalked by authorities as he tried to 
get to the bottom of the Benghazi scandal. To obtain the search warrant 
allowing this, the Attorney General of the United States filed an 
absolutely spurious claim with the Federal court charging that Rosen 
had conspired to violate the Espionage Act. That's the same act under 
which Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was executed in 1953. The message to 
reporters asking inconvenient questions of this administration could 
not possibly have been more powerful or terrifying, and this week the 
head of AP reported that their news sources have indeed dried up in 
response to these naked acts of intimidation.
  The third development is news that the Federal Government has swept 
up the phone and Internet records of millions of Americans in the name 
of state security just months after the official in charge 
categorically denied the existence of this program in sworn testimony 
to Congress.
  The practice of the government searching your personal records 
without having first established reason to believe that you have 
committed a crime is expressly forbidden by the Fourth Amendment, 
adopted in direct response to British officials indiscriminately 
searching homes and records for evidence of contraband, yet this 
government has done precisely that on a scale unimaginable in colonial 
times, in this case searching for evidence of terrorism.
  If I know the Web sites that you've visited and what phone numbers 
you've called, I know a great deal about your political and religious 
beliefs, your personal relationships, your sexual interests, your 
mental and physical health and your family finances. And with that 
information in the hands of officials who already have demonstrated a 
clear intention and ability to use their power to intimidate political 
adversaries into silence or to discourage reporters from asking 
embarrassing questions, our society could very quickly cross a very 
bright line between freedom and authoritarianism.
  As if to underscore the point, the administration spokesman recently 
told a national television audience that

[[Page H4087]]

``the law is irrelevant.'' He called these matters ``a distraction.'' 
What does that say about a society that once prided itself on being a 
Nation of laws and not of men?
  All around this Capitol, we are surrounded by the trappings of the 
Roman Republic. They serve as an inspiration, but they should also 
serve as a warning. The Roman Republic didn't end because Caesar 
crossed the Rubicon with his legion. It was because that illegal act 
was not effectively resisted and led to another usurpation and then 
another and then another over a period of years. It was the 
accumulation of many such infringements that brought the inexorable 
decline of freedom and set the stage for Rome's age of tyrants. That's 
what Jefferson meant when he said the price of liberty is eternal 
  My great fear, as we adjourn tomorrow to celebrate the 237th 
anniversary of American freedom, is that sometime between the barbecues 
and the fireworks we shrug off these profound developments and go about 
as if nothing has happened. The summer of 2013 has brought us to a 
crossroads, and I rise today to urge the House to give these events its 
full and undivided attention.