A commentary by
By Chuck Baldwin
December 16, 2005
(Used by Chuck Baldwin's permission on CR's Range)
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has just passed a bill which renews the USA Patriot Act. According to a News With Views press release, "Despite massive opposition from individuals and groups on all sides of the political spectrum, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday gave in to pressure from the Administration and approved the conference report H.R. 3199 (introduced by Judiciary chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.) which would make permanent 14 of the 16 provisions of the controversial Patriot Act-but failed to put much- needed checks and balances against abuse into the law.
"The House vote was 251-174, with 44 Democrats joining 207 Republicans. Only 17 Republicans took a stand against the bill. These included Ron Paul, Texas; Dana Rohrbacker, Calif.; and Bruce Otter, Idaho. There were nine 'not voting'-six Republicans and three Democrats."
Under the rubric of "fighting terrorism," President Bush and his fellow Republicans are actually terrorizing the U.S. Constitution! Instead of making America more secure, the Patriot Act puts America at greater risk of being terrorized-by our own government!
Furthermore, those people who still labor under the delusion that free men and women have nothing to fear from our federal government need to familiarize themselves with history-including U.S. history-and with the actual details of the Act. What they would discover should certainly frighten them.
For example, Section 213 of the Act authorizes "sneak and peek" searches for virtually any reason, even if those reasons are completely unrelated to terrorism. Already, the vast majority of cases where "sneak and peek" searches have been used have had nothing to do with suspected terrorist activity, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
Beyond that, "sneak and peek" searches are conducted in absolute secrecy. Victims of "sneak and peek" may not be informed of their home or business being searched and items seized for weeks, months, or even longer. Such people come home to ransacked rooms and think it was done by burglars, when, in fact, it was federal agents!
Furthermore, Section 215 of the Act greatly loosens the standard under which the federal government can obtain secret court orders to gather evidence from third parties on any citizen. This includes library records, firearms records, medical records, or any other type of "tangible evidence" without showing the court any suspicion that the person has violated the law or is an agent of a foreign power. Basically, the law requires the secret court to authorize the seizures because the federal agent asks for it! No evidence is required. Absolutely none! Section 505 of the Act is even more problematic!
Under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act in Section 505, federal agents are able to draft what are called National Security Letters (NSLs), which never even go before a federal judge, in order to gain access to a wide category of personal information in the hands of banks and other entities. These NSLs require no link between the person or persons on whom the private information is being sought and any criminal conduct nor any suspicion they have done anything wrong. And there is absolutely no checks or oversight over the government's power to access a citizen's personal information.
Then there is Section 802 which defines "domestic terrorism" to include any act that "appears intended to influence" government policy. But does not virtually every action taken by, say, pro-lifers, Second Amendment proponents, or any other lobbying organization or individual activist attempt to "influence" government? Of course they do. Well, under Section 802 of the Patriot Act, those people can be identified as "domestic terrorists" and may be subjected to all the investigative probes of the federal government.
Yet, there is more. Under the USA Patriot Act, the government can obtain "roving wiretaps" without specifying either the identity of the target or the phone to be tapped. Is this freedom as you understand it?
The sad reality is, the Draconian features of the USA Patriot Act do not make America one bit more secure! What they do is strip law-abiding American citizens of their constitutionally protected liberties! The implementation of the Patriot Act as passed will only serve to help create the kind of terrorist state that the government claims it is attempting to protect us from! Is this the kind of America we want to bequeath to our posterity?
Our only hope for passing a rational bill that does not inflict serious injury to the rights and liberties of the American people is to support those Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate that appear ready to filibuster the bill as it now exists. Every lover of liberty should contact their senators and encourage them to reject the Patriot Act until it includes appropriate safeguards that would protect us from over-reaching, over-zealous federal police agencies!
Why do you think the Founding Fathers put the Bill of Rights in the Constitution to begin with? It was because they knew it was the tendency of the federal government to trample the freedoms and rights of individuals. If the U.S. Senate approves the Patriot Act as it is currently written, the concerns of the founders will be proven justified, as our federal government will have put in place the statutes with which the rights and liberties of the American people will be expunged!
© Chuck Baldwin
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