Patriot Act: Why it is Attracting Fierce Opposition
The Guardian has a special report today on the Patriot Act, focusing on the growing criticism of the Act, particularly with respect to the Justice Department's application of its provisions in non-terror cases, and the threat such use represents to all of our civil liberties. Written by Guardian reporter Christopher Reed, it is a thorough analysis and we recommend reading the whole thing. We spoke with Mr. Reed for almost an hour on the phone as he was writing the article, and can attest to his determination to make sure his conclusions were supported by facts.
Reed quotes from Congressman Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) statement to Congress when introducing the bill:
The Wisconsin Republican assured his colleagues: "This bill does not do anything to take away the freedoms of innocent citizens. Of course we all recognise that the fourth amendment to the constitution prevents the government from conducting unrea sonable searches and seizures. That is why this legislation does not change the constitution from the rights guaranteed to citizens of this country under the Bill of Rights."
Reed then quotes from an ACLU letter that was introduced into the Congressional record before the bill was passed:
"Sadly, most Americans do not seem to realise that Congress is about to pass a law that drastically expands government power to invade our privacy, to imprison people without due process, and to punish dissent. More disturbing is that this power grab of our freedoms and civil liberties is in fact not necessary to fight terrorism."
Reed also mentions that not only was the bill passed without committee hearings in the Senate, but many members of Congress hadn't even had time to read the 342 page bill before voting on it. The vote was 97 to 1 in the Senate (Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) was the lone dissenter) and 309-118 in the House of Representatives.
Fast forwarding to the present, the article lays out the specific concerns of civil libertarians over the bill's application in non-terror cases and to ordinary citizens. Reed notes:
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