Norman Singleton Discusses the Terrible Way the PATRIOT Act Became Law

by | Mar 26, 2015

Norman Singleton, who worked for years as the legislative director for former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), provided a very revealing account on Tuesday of the terrible way the PATRIOT Act was moved quickly to passage by a huge majority of votes in the US House of Representatives and Senate in October of 2001. Singleton, who is currently the vice president of policy at the Campaign for Liberty, made the comments as a panelist in a Washington, DC congressional briefing regarding the Surveillance State Repeal Act (HR 1466) introduced this week by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY).

Singleton explains:

Not only was [the PATRIOT Act] rushed through, but members [of the House of Representatives] literally did not have time to read the bill before it was voted on. There was a version — different from that which passed out of Judiciary Committee — introduced, I believe, the morning of [the bill’s consideration] in Rules Committee, and then the vote was less than maybe three or four hours afterwards. And you’re talking about a bill this large that’s not even available on the internet until almost right before the vote. There’s no way that a member of Congress who voted for this bill could say, ‘I know what I was doing when I voted for this bill.’

Afterwards, looking at the bill, one of the things that we noticed in our office was that a lot of [the bill] was very familiar. It was stuff that the Justice Department had on a ‘wish list’ of increased powers that they were unable to get through a Republican Congress during the 1990s. They took advantage — ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’ They took their ‘wish list’ off the shelf and packaged it as antiterrorism.

There were members on the floor during the debate actually saying that, ‘if we don’t pass this law immediately, there’s going to be a series or terrorist attacks.’

In addition, Singleton notes, all this happened as Congress was subjected to the anthrax scare that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks. As Singleton concludes, it was “the worst possible time to do legislation affecting the basic rights of the American people.”

The Senate passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the long and complex bill the day following its passage in the House.

Congress members were scared, uninformed, and rushed when they passed the PATRIOT Act in October of 2001. It seems Pollyanna-ish to suppose that providing sufficient time for education and deliberation in Congress and among the people would have ensured no bad laws were enacted. But, such education and deliberation may have induced at least the removal of some of the legislation’s freedom-crushing provisions.

Watch Singleton’s presentation here:


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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