Monday, May 09, 2005

Subject of the week of May 9th, 2005 - "The Patriot Act"

I may just surprise a few of you with this subject. While I am a moderate conservative, I am also a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution.
The "Patriot Act" is a misnomer; it really should have been called The Anti-Terrorism Security Act since that is the entire aim. What we have to ask ourselves about this issue is, what are we willing to give up in the name of security?
There are good things about this act. It allows Intel Agencies to talk to each other, (The FBI, local police agencies, CIA, DIA, etc.) which was previously unheard of due to Intelligence Oversight. It funds anti-terrorism programs, and it makes the jobs of our police and military agencies much easier, in some cases almost too easy, and that is where it starts to go wrong.

I have particular problems with the parts of the act that involve search, seizure and monitoring issues. In my opinion this is just an easy way to circumvent the intent of the forth amendment. The government should not be able to enter a citizen’s home and take anything they wish, with or without their knowledge, without at least some proof. The government has no business in my business if I have not given them probable cause to be suspicious by either my own declaration, or by my actions. As it stands, they need little more than suspicion to perform wiretaps, monitor personal e-mail, or execute a special search warrant. These are atrocious violations of citizens’ rights.

Now, back to being a heartless conservative: Unlike other people, I do not have a problem with these provisions applying to non-citizens. I draw the line at the rights of citizens versus the rights non-citizens. (I know I am crossing issues here, but many times my feeling about one cross into another). People, who are here on visas, expired or otherwise, should not be afforded the same rights and privileges as the citizens of this country (I have a whole different definition of what a Citizen should be, but that is for another time). We have a right as a society to question, and have answered, what any foreign national is doing here. If they are simply students or hardworking people trying to become citizens, then they have nothing to fear, or at least they shouldn’t. However, we do need to step up enforcement of our immigration policies and deport those who are here on illegally, or who have committed crimes. That is not to say that resident aliens or foreign workers should be harassed, if they are not involved in suspicious or illegal activity, they should be left alone. They are an integral and valuable part of our society.

Doing these things would take the place of the "Patriot Act" and make it a whole bunch more "patriotic" by not impacting the upstanding citizens of this country nearly as much as it currently does. A price must be paid for security, but the question is, what are we willing to pay?

-Zaphriel Michaels of Birth of a Neocon

I agree with all of what you said Zaph. I would like to point out that much of the fear on privacy issues however is nothing new. The patriot act has not given the government any powers it didn't have already. Besides that point. I'll sit out on this one. You've worded it well for the conservative side Zaph...I'm right along with you. You know my issue with the ACLU, is not its particular opposition to this alone, but its opposition to EVERY effort of the government to fight terrorism. So, overall, this looks good to me.

-John Stephenson (Jay777) of Stop the ACLU

"The plea of good intentions is not one that can be allowed to have much weight in passing historical judgment upon a man whose wrong-headedness and distorted way of looking at things produced, or helped to produce, such incalculable evil" -- Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt wrote these words more than 100 years ago, but they could have very well been written about those who wrote, supported, voted and signed into law, the "USA Patriot Act." After all, it is said that hell is paved with good intentions. As an atheist I, of course, don't believe in the biblical hell. My version of hell is a country where the liberty of men is subject to the unrestricted whims of the government. The Constitution was meant to prevent just such a hell, but these days the legislature seems to view the Constitution more as a set of non-binding suggestions rather than the absolute law of the land.

Spawned after the tragedies of 9/11, the Patriot Act was clearly the result of fear and panic at time when strength and rationality was needed. Though partisans would have you believe differently, both major parties are to blame for this gross violation of civil liberties. As John Kerry was fond of pointing out during his failed presidential campaign he "authored most of the money laundering provisions" in the Patriot Act. Title III represents some of the most egregious violations of privacy in the law.

Of course, many of those responsible for this monstrosity read only the parts that they themselves wrote, which is why this is such a good idea. It is no surprise that there was a major backlash once the full details of the Patriot Act came to light. Indeed, the SAFE Act of 2003 came about as a result of the revelation of civil liberties violations made possible by the Patriot Act. Had they done their jobs in the first place, our legislators wouldn't have found it necessary to fix their previous mistakes.

It is time for the American public to wake up to the reality that exists on Capital Hill. Until they do, we are not likely to see the end of bad legislation such as the Patriot Act.

-Liberty Dog of One Billion Red Chinese and a Dog Named Liberty

Zaph, my friend,
What can I add to this? Hardly a thing actually, since it appears to me that you've totally taken the liberal and libertarian (and proper, I might add) positions on this issue. As a "Patriot", and as a concerned citizen, I, like you and many others, willingly gave up a huge portion of our civil liberties to help our Government nab some "bad guys". But I did NOT agree
to re-write our Constitution - I agreed to give up some certain "Unalienable Rights" for a FINITE amount of time.

Now, still acting as a "Patriot", I say the Act's time is up and I WANT MY CIVIL LIBERTIES BACK. It's that simple. The provisions you agree with allowing our Government to keep, apparently I do too. The rest of it, they can toss into the round file now and bring each provision THEY want to keep, forward as separate law proposals on a one by one basis. If the People and
the Congress can all agree illegal search and seizure should be a new law, then so be it. But I think we ALL know the answer on that one, don't we?

We've given our Government a head start, now it's time for them to give us back our civil rights and go get the bad guys. If they cannot do so under our Republic's rules and Constitution, the answer is simple - we do NOT need a new Constitution, we need a new Government that is capable of getting the job done. I'll toss the Government into the paper shredder MUCH faster than I'll be willing to toss MY Constitution into the shredder. The Government's primary JOB is to protect the People. If they're incompetent, they should not remain in power. If they say they cannot protect me without the Patriot Act, it is high time for them to go back to their old career fields again and step out of the way for a new Government, OF the People, BY the People,
and FOR the People.

And that's about all I have to say about THAT. Great post, my friend.

-Carl of The Gun-Toting Liberal

As a slightly conservative Oklahoma Democrat and as a concerned American, I have four separate problems with the USA Patriot Act.

The first problem I have is with the very name of the Act itself. According to Congress, it stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." Based on the way many lawmakers have thrown the word "Patriot" around, I am almost led to believe this name was decided on so that anyone who didn't support
what the government was doing could be pressured by calling them "Un-Patriotic." Most of the name-calling has been from the Right though I have witnessed more than I can stand from the Left as well. Perhaps I am wrong, but I doubt this turn of events was a coincidence.

The second problem I have is that many portions of the Act are blatant abuses of power, which severely hinder Americans in the practice of their rights. Being able to search a home or business without any real reason for doing so and without telling the owner is absolutely intolerable. Americans were scared, many totally terrified, after September 11, 2001 but that didn't justify sacrificing so many rights. It most certainly didn't justify making the government so powerful. While we did need something like the Act, it should not have included language that allowed the rights of American citizens to be ignored. While this may not occur often, it does happen and it opens the door to even more abuse of power in future.

The third problem I have is that the Act touches on and in many cases stupefies other laws passed before and since, thus making it non-sensical. For example, the Act made it much harder for non-American citizens to enter the United States. This is a fine thing except for the fact that it is slowly being rendered pointless on many fronts. Prime evidence for this case is the agreement President Bush made with Mexico that allows illegals to enter the country legally with little ID cards. Getting these cards doesn't involve a truly in-depth background check or anything. Suppose a terrorist went to Mexico and made it into the US this way? I view this as a sacrifice of American security for the interest of votes. Who is the patriot here? To further stupefy the situation, Bush has made it more difficult for Americans to go to Mexico with rule changes that will start in a few years, requiring a passport as well as other documentation for travel to that country. Why is the government contradicting the all-important Patriot Act just for politically convenient reasons?

The fourth problem I have with the Act involves the right of government or other significant agencies to deny access to their records to citizens. While this is an important security concern in many arenas, it has been taken out of context and abused all too often. An example that is close to home for me is taking place at the University of Oklahoma, where high levels of arsenic in the water system has been a problem for years. Until the Patriot Act came along, the public could access the information and pressure the university. Now, officials are hiding behind the Act and pretending there isn’t a problem.

The USA Patriot Act is an important document and law, protecting Americans from threats both foreign and domestic. It is also an outrageous abuse of power that needs a lot of editing in order to protect Americans but also allow it to truly live up to its purpose.

-Joseph Seals of The New Oklahoma Democrat

Now it's time to discuss. We have laid out our views; now tell us what you think. The comments section is open to everyone, but respect is key. Please, no Swearing, or Personal Attacks. Anything deemed too highly offensive will be deleted at this team's discretion. So as the great Mills Lane would say, "Let’s get it on!" -Z.
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