Congressman Phil Roe

Congressman Phil Roe (the Herald / Archived Photo)

By Joe King, [email protected]

Seymour- Congressman Phil Roe stopped by the Herald office June 10 to discuss growing concerns of government outreach and recently exposed private phone monitoring surveillance.

From mounting distrust emanating from the Obama Administration through scandals such as the Benghazi cover-up, secret subpoenae of the private phone records of several Associated Press reporters, IRS targeting, and the newly exposed mass phone records monitoring, Roe said there has been a breech in trust between Americans and the Government.

“I hate to say it, but it’s nothing other than a scandal,” he said. “I think this business with Verizon where they are collecting every single phone call is ridiculous. It’s hard enough to find a needle in a small haystack; it’s nearly impossible to find it in the one they created.”

In addition to the ineffectiveness of increasing safety by monitoring the cell phone records of Americans who are not suspected of any criminal activity, Roe condemned the unconstitutional violation of civil rights the spying program embraces.

“I can see from my viewpoint that we have a Bill of Rights that people died for,” he said. “My gut instinct was this is death by 1,000 cuts. If we continue to nibble away at these rights, sooner or later we won’t have any rights at all.”

Roe said in order to preserve the free society the US was founded upon, practices such as cell phone monitoring, IRS targeting, and hindering the press need to be stopped.

“I think it has to be scaled back,” he said. “To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, those who give up freedom for security will get neither. Some people are willing to do that, but I’m just not. I live in a free country and I want it to stay that way.”

Roe also touched on the diminishing right to habeas corpus, the Patriot Act, and the use of drones to kill American citizens.

“With American citizenship comes certain rights that cannot be infringed upon,” he said. “To me personally, I’d like to overturn the Patriot Act and start over. We need to ask ourselves what kind of a country do we want to live in. Do we want to live in a huge country that knows everything about what you do?”

In addition to voting against the Patriot Act expansion, Roe also opposed the controversial National Defense Authorization Act that suspended civil rights for anybody classified as an “enemy combatant”.

Although the Benghazi and AP scandals still have a large place in the current political discussion, Roe said one reason the IRS and Verizon scandals have had more of an impact is because they hit closer to home for most.

“The IRS took the Tea Party and looked at what they were doing for political reasons, there’s no question about it,” he said. “I think there has been a lot done to breech the trust of the American people and the only way to govern is through trust.”

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