March 8, 1999
Victory should be call to action
Complacency must be avoided if liberty to reign
Americans may lay claim to a minor victory in the battle for liberty, if not the war. Last week, the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services unanimously passed a revised version of an amendment I introduced to stop the proposed "Know Your Customer" regulations.
But this amendment is tacked onto a broader bill that is not assured of passage in the House, nor the Senate, nor receiving the signature of the president. While the message sent to the regulators bent on implementing these regulations is a victory, there remains much work to be done.
These proposed regulations, which I have written about for almost a year, would virtually eliminate any vestiges of privacy remaining in our financial system. In addition to subverting the Constitution's Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections, these regulations would -- if enacted -- wreak havoc on our system of finance. Banks would be required to monitor every transaction of its customers, create detailed profiles based on that monitoring, and then notify federal agencies any time a customer deviated -- even slightly -- from that profile. All the records would be accessible at any time to the federal government.
More than 140,000 people wrote in opposition to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve and the other agencies promulgating these regulations. Those same agencies -- with no small degree of bewilderment -- recorded less than 100 comments in support of the massive privacy grab.
Even law enforcement professionals are unimpressed with the regulations. The Law Enforcement Alliance of America -- one of the largest organizations of police officers -- supported my work, stating it is "opposed to any federal directive that would require banks to implement profiling systems."
The LEAA statement goes on to read that, "Such intrusive measures will also infringe the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens while detracting from meaningful debate and discussion of measures that would improve law enforcement's crime-fighting ability."
The real problem is not the specifics of this particular set of regulations, but the entire process that allows these regulations in the first place. Unfortunately, though, there are some in Congress who irrationally believe one can violate the Constitution's strict prohibition against federal crime laws, support a multitude of big-government programs like the failed "war on drugs," yet still respect individual privacy. The logical fallacy of such a belief would be almost laughable, were it not so dangerous and irresponsible.
Dangerous because those Members of Congress will now -- having witnessed a minor victory -- forget about the importance of this issue and move on to the next cause du jour. These members of Congress are content only to place inconvenient speed bumps in the way of regulators bent on undermining our form of government.
I believe, however, we need to take these powers out of the hands of the regulators altogether. Government agencies should not have the power to draft an entire industry into their service, nor should they be allowed to unilaterally declare as criminal the behavior of every American citizen.
This is why I will not relent in my crusade to reign in these unconstitutional agencies, which operate often in direct opposition to our form of government and tradition of liberty.
A minor victory in the battle for liberty should inspire us not to drift into dull complacency, but to press on with renewed vigor toward the goal before us. If we are to find true success, it will come when we devote ourselves not to political expediency, but to the full implementation of the principles of liberty.