By Joel Hall
Bob Barr, who over the weekend became the Libertarian candidate for President of the United States, criticized the Bush administration for its "increasing encroachment on privacy," in a speech in Jonesboro.
Barr, a former Georgia congressman, board member of the National Rifle Association, and Central Intelligence Agency official, highlighted privacy as a "fundamental concept of freedom," while speaking before the Clayton County Rotary Club on Wednesday. He said the U.S. Government has chipped away at the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution during the last two Bush administrations.
"Our founding fathers understood the importance of privacy in a free society," he said. "Obviously, under this administration, the right to privacy not only isn't important, it doesn't exist.
"This administration believes that simply because [George W. Bush] is clothed with the title of Commander in Chief ... he can ignore provisions in the Constitution, so long as in his mind, he's doing it for what he believes is a reason. There really isn't any limit to this."
Barr cited the increased use of domestic wiretapping through the USA PATRIOT Act; the ability to forcibly take DNA samples from anybody who has been arrested; and talk of a government-issued National Identification Card as examples of the government's recent infringements on privacy rights.
He said the government needs to do a better job of enforcing the Bill of Rights and other pre-existing laws. "The reason the terrorists succeeded [on 9-11] was not because we didn't have the Patriot Act," said Barr. "We weren't enforcing the laws that were already on the books. I think we do a disservice to the Constitution by not demanding that they do a better job with the power that they already have."
Previously a Republican, before joining the Libertarian Party, Barr earned the party's presidential nomination at the Libertarian National Convention in Denver, Colo., over the Memorial Day weekend.
Pre-scheduled to speak to the Clayton County Rotary Club about privacy issues, Barr spent little time speaking about his bid for the White House. After the speech, however, he expressed his hopes for the Libertarian Party.
"There are dynamics this year that are real unique that give us a shot that we have never had before," said Barr. He said there are people in both the Republican and Democratic parities who are dissatisfied with their present nominees. He believes the Libertarian Party will be able to attract those voters as well as young independents.
Barr added that many of those voters live in his home state of Georgia, and that the state will be crucial in his campaign.
Clayton County Rotary Club member and past president, Raymond Baggarly, said Barr's speech addressed many privacy and security issues affecting all Americans.
"I think we are absolutely at the tipping point," in regards to American privacy rights, said Baggarly. He said Barr gave a "good answer" to the question of balancing terrorism surveillance with respect for Fourth Amendment Rights.
Past Rotary Club District 6900 Governor Claudia Mertl, who organized Wednesday's visit by Barr, said it was "very informative" and gave members more "options" in their choice of candidates.
Barr said that in this election, it is important to keep people focused on privacy and other "fundamental issues. If people aren't aware of what their constitutional liberties are, they aren't aware when they have been taken away," he said. "I intend to talk about these issues and I hope that it will resonate with people."