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Patriotism vs. the USA Patriot Act

by : Dorothy M. Ehrlich
Tuesday July 5, 2005 - 05:57
4 comments

Patriotic Americans have a lot at stake this Fourth of July. After the glare of fireworks has faded, the true test of American patriotism moves to Congress, where both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees will prepare to debate the fate of the USA Patriot Act.

It’s a debate that has long been anticipated. When Congress passed the Patriot Act — all 150 sections of it — just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many lawmakers understood that some of these broad new powers should only be temporary. They wisely agreed that many of the most controversial sections of the act (about 10 percent) would automatically expire in four years. Thus, as the Dec. 31 expiration (or "sunset") deadline approaches, congressional debate about the Patriot Act is finally beginning.

But the opportunity for a robust debate has been marred by a pre-emptive effort in the Senate, where the Select Intelligence Committee decided to hold its vote and debate on expanding the Patriot Act in secret. A copy of the unwise and unwarranted bill it approved was not made public until more than two weeks later.

Far worse than cloaking the legislative process in secrecy was the outcome. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee approved a bill that would make permanent virtually all of the controversial provisions Congress originally made temporary. What’s more, the measure would give the FBI the power to write its own subpoenas to demand any kind of record, with no judicial approval and without making a showing to the court that there are facts that connect the records sought to a terrorist.

Clearly, the senators meeting behind closed doors didn’t hear Americans calling for Patriot Act reform. More than 400 boards of supervisors and town councils from Elko, Nev., to New York City spoke up. Seven state governments, including four "red" states with Republican majorities, called for reform. Meanwhile, a new coalition, "Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances," brings together some unlikely allies, including the ACLU and the American Conservative Union.

The outcry is all the more remarkable when you consider that three years ago, a bipartisan movement for Patriot Act reform was virtually unthinkable. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the Bush administration, with former Attorney General John Ashcroft leading the charge, chose to demand unilateral power to limit civil liberties and diminish our privacy in a variety of ways. Indeed, Ashcroft lashed out at those who questioned the administration’s policies with such McCarthyist comebacks as, "Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." His tough talk was backed by action: The administration issued an executive order lifting a ban against spying on and infiltrating domestic political and religious groups.

The Patriot Act in its current form includes provisions that threaten the American legacy of liberty and privacy. But it can be fixed easily to restore meaningful checks and balances while properly focusing our limited anti- terrorism resources on foreign terrorists rather than ordinary Americans. Bipartisan legislation, the Security and Freedom Enhanced Act, is a good place to start. The SAFE Act includes commonsense fixes such as requiring individual suspicion for searches of libraries, bookstores and other sensitive records; placing reasonable limits on "sneak and peek" searches, and helping to ensure that the expansive new wiretap powers do not allow eavesdropping on the conversations of innocent people.

The question is, will Congress keep America safe and free by correcting the fundamental flaws in the Patriot Act? We’ll find out when it resumes after the Fourth of July recess. Patriotism is so much more than flag-waving and pyrotechnics. It’s about vigilantly guarding the fundamental American principles of justice and liberty that have come under siege with the Bush administration’s determination to hold itself above the law. It’s time to restore the basic checks and balances that are fundamental to our constitutional liberties. That’s the kind of patriotism we yearn for today.

Dorothy M. Ehrlich is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (www.aclunc.org).

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/artic...



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> Patriotism vs. the USA Patriot Act
Wednesday July 6 - 21:17 - Posted by 27f820c7de78b75a...

At what point would you fight? If someone was killed in your country? IF someone was killed in your town? If someone in your family? What would it take for you to fight? IF someone was going to kill you? Is that the only thing it would take? Or is there nothing that would make you stand up and fight.




> Patriotism vs. the USA Patriot Act
Thursday July 7 - 04:16 - Posted by 3fd053730495b3e7...

Please help me understand what "standing up and fighting" has to do with the FBI checking what books you read at the local library or being able to come into your home at any time without a warrant for the sake of "National Security" or asking your neighbors to spy on you.

I personally don’t see the connection!

AV



> Patriotism vs. the USA Patriot Act
Saturday July 9 - 18:00 - Posted by 3163285998e51224...

What are we fighting for? Freedeom? The best way to fight for freedom is to scrap about 99% of the patriot act.



> Patriotism vs. the USA Patriot Act
Thursday July 7 - 04:09 - Posted by 3fd053730495b3e7...

Hello,
I e-mailed both Senators and and my House Representative. Only one Senator was kind enough to acknowledge the correspondence. Senator Inhofe, of Oklahoma. I am of the opinion to let the sunset provision come into effect and let the Patriot Act die it’s natural death. This one Senator said thanks for my opinion but he is going to vote to make the Patriot Act permanent.

We should all beware.

AV







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