The Patriot Act: Friend Or Foe?

Ahhh the beloved Patriot Act. From reading and watching the media, I don't think anyone knows what the Patriot Act does and doesn't do. The Liberal media I mean ;-)

The actual text of the Patriot Act is here to compare. You really have to scroll down to get the actual wording of the law and not the title list. Let us not forget that the Patriot Act passed overwhelmingly (Senate 98-1; House 357-66). So you might think that this law puts into motion a "Big Brother" society and denies us all of our rights already supposedly guaranteed by the constitution. If so, you need to contact your local Federal politician (Senator and Representative) and tell them that they are un-American and will not be getting your vote at the next election. After all, if the bill was as bad as the media makes it out to be, then certainly our Congress could have overridden the President's OK on such a travesty as this. It can only be a bid by the President to try and cover up his mistakes by making us all suffer just to catch terrorists. So talk to your local Federal politicians and see what they say.

Well, let's get way from sensationalistic media fantasy for a moment and discuss the truth of the matter. As of Feb. 24th 2004, the ACLU has not made any significant moves to show probable cause of the alleged "violation of personal rights" given through the Patriot Act. Sure there are lots of bits and pieces added to the existing law (500 pages). And yes, some court cases will test the law in certain aspects and cases to see if it applies. That's true of any law. Courts and Congress have been for years debating whether certain things are unconstitutional e.g.: How many weeks of pregnancy fall under Roe v. Wade? Is having "In God We Trust" on money legal? Was that murder or manslaughter? Can Ted Nugent eat all the animals he kills? Etc.

But it looks like this law will stand. Probably not as a whole but after review, the Patriot Act premise will have to survive to curb the way terrorism's new frontier works. And it will get it's chance for renewal in 2005. Maybe the law enforcement won't need certain areas of the Patriot Act, but it should go through again much to the chagrin of uninformed people everywhere.

Here is a site that explains the text of the Patriot Act. Here is an article from the lawyer who basically put it together. Here is the Jan. 27, 2004 Department of Justice report that found no abuses of the Patriot Act.

Representative Ron Paul of Texas has his take on it. He was the 1988 Libertarian Presidential candidate. I have deep respect for him and his views. He makes good points, and even he doesn't get the full gist of the law.

Even the ACLU and their lawyers don't seem to have an understanding of the Patriot Act. On the ACLU website it reads:

"Normally, the government cannot effect a search without obtaining a warrant and showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime. Section 215 violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing the government to effect Fourth Amendment searches without a warrant and without showing probable cause."

Yet on another section of the website it reads on page 287:

'An investigation conducted under this section shall—
‘‘(A) be conducted under guidelines approved by the
Attorney General under Executive Order 12333 (or a successor
order); and
‘‘(B) not be conducted of a United States person solely
upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment
to the Constitution of the United States.' -
my italics.

Wait we're still protected under the 1st Amendment? Hmmm. The next paragraph reads:

‘‘(b) Each application under this section—
‘‘(1) shall be made to—
‘‘(A) a judge of the court established by section 103(a);
‘‘(B) a United States Magistrate Judge under chapter
43 of title 28, United States Code, who is publicly designated
by the Chief Justice of the United States to have
the power to hear applications and grant orders for the
production of tangible things under this section on behalf
of a judge of that court; and‘‘

(2) shall specify that the records concerned are sought
for an authorized investigation conducted in accordance with
subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not
concerning a United States person or to protect against international
terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.
‘‘(c)(1) Upon an application made pursuant to this section, the
judge shall enter an ex parte order as requested, or as modified,
approving the release of records if the judge finds that the application
meets the requirements of this section."

WAIT A MINUTE! You mean to tell me they still need a warrant? That's not what I just read in the previous post on the ACLU website. Even the ACLU can't figure it out. Who can?

I'm sure it will all be hashed out by 2005. I'm sure enough applications of the Patriot Act law in courts will be sufficient by that time to render a clear view on what needs to be included in the new law to be made. I still have yet to have my personal rights effected by the Patriot Act. I still know no one who has. And that's a good thing.

UPDATE: from this article:

"The USA Patriot Act has become a brand," says Georgetown University Law Center professor Viet Dinh, who was instrumental in drafting the act as head of the DOJ's legal policy shop from 2001 to 2003. "Activists lump everything that is objectionable about the war on terror, anything wrong with the world really, onto the USA Patriot Act. No more than 10 percent of what people ascribe to the USA Patriot Act on any given day, is in the Patriot Act itself. A lot of the fears out there are based on misconceptions."

The word "library" never actually appears in the act. Yet, mention the law in many parts of the country, and folks think it gives the FBI free rein to snoop on the books they read.

The association -- while overly simplistic -- has enormous resonance with the American public and has been seized upon by the law's opponents to tap into Americans' natural distrust of government.

"We don't like federal agents poking around our libraries," Democratic wunderkind Barack Obama, a Senate candidate from Illinois, said last week in his keynote speech at the party's national convention.

One ACLU handout alerts citizens that, under the Patriot Act, the government can "collect information about what books you read," "search your home and not even tell you," and "take away your property without a hearing."
According to Gallup Polls, public approval of the Patriot Act has decreased slightly since the department launched its PR offensive. In August 2003, 22 percent of those questioned felt the act went too far in restricting civil liberties. In February, 26 percent said the law went too far.