Barr, a former U.S. congressman from Georgia and a constitutional lawyer, spoke to a crowd of 25 members and guests at the Rib Ranch off Canton Road in Marietta about the recent leak that the federal government is collecting cellphone and Internet data.
Barr said the National Security Agency’s surveillance operation is a clear invasion of privacy with no attempt at transparency.
“(The NSA) is currently operating in violation of the law,” Barr said.
Barr said the USA Patriot Act was explicit about the need for the intelligence community to gather information to protect the country, but not “by any means necessary.”
Barr said the Obama Administration and the federal court system has allowed for the act to be applied too broadly and without enough oversight.
When the Patriot Act was passed during the Bush administration, Barr said the original intent was to allow for the government to access specific records on a specific individual.
Now, Barr says the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, is shattered because the government is requesting information about people without showing probable cause that they have engaged in criminal activity.
“Reasonable suspicion is no longer required … for cases that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism,” said Barr, who was an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1971 to 1978.
During his speech, Barr pulled out a pocket-sized, dog-eared copy of the Constitution that he said he has used since the 1970s.
Barr told the group that the Constitution defines the powers of the government and “justice means keeping government within those bounds.”
The Justice Department’s claim that the surveillance measures are for the overall good of the country is a “facade” to wear down the opposition, Barr said.
Barr said the government will continue to expand its powers until citizens “get into the weeds of where government is abusing authority.”
People in the audience complained of a lack of leadership by the GOP.
“We no longer live in a free country and it is about time we knew what to do,” said John Hiland, who lives in Woodstock and has been a member of the forum for more than five years.
The Madison Forum invitation promised a discussion of “today’s issues,” and the wide range of topics that included Common Core and immigration reform did not disappoint.
Adding to the more than 200 members, Kelly Marlow from the Cherokee County Board of Education is the newest person to join the group.
Marlow thanked The Madison Forum for its dedication to share information.
“It is what people who are fighting for America should really be about,” Marlow said.
Forum President Michael Opitz said speeches to the group are normally videotaped, but not if the guest is in the middle of a political campaign.
Barr, who will be running for the 11th Congressional District seat in 2014, assured the audience from the beginning that his appearance was not a political rally.