Patriot Act II meets opposition

By Margaret Poe 2004

In today’s world, it is dangerous to be a Muslim. In fact, in some cases, our federal government considers it a crime. The Patriot Act passed shortly after Sept. 11 began this new wave of justice, making many invasive practices legal and, paradoxically, the innocent behavior of others illegal.

When the news leaked out in February of this year that the Justice Department is secretly preparing an enhancement to the Patriot Act, people responded with furor, a much different response than before the initial beill passed on Oct. 26, 2001. And justifiably so, as the country was in such a state of shock in those days that anything to help get the bad guys seemed OK. But now, as Americans have had time to reflect and once again revere the Bill of Rights, giving the government such a long lease in its searches seems a trifle questionable.

Among other new freedoms, the Patriot Act has given the government the right to conduct wiretaps spying on people. Under emergency conditions, they are allowed to install the wiretaps before getting court approval. A total of 170 of these have been used since Sept. 11. In addition, the government has access to library and Internet use records. But the truth is, the full extent of the Act’s power is unknown to the American people until they experience it firsthand. Those who question it fear what can and will be done.

Wiretaps are surely necessary in some cases, but why can’t they wait to get approval before barging into people’s property? Freedom from search and seizurer still exits … if you are luck, that it. Some might think that if a person is guilty of terrorist-related activity, they deserve it anyway. However, what about the simple fact that even federal agents make mistakes? It’s certainly happened before. (I’m thinking McCarthy.)

Many have observed that people who look Muslim seem to be searched more in airport security, but it doesn’t end there: 1,200 people were taken into custody after Sept. 11, based on what looks like shanty evidence. I turns out that a meager 130 actually committed crimes.

These people’s stories are finally being heard, and it’s not something which instills pride in American’s hearts. 60 Minutes reported the stories of three men whom were held in maximum-security prison for months. They were subjected to torture like strip-searching, rectal exams and solitary confinement with lights on 24 hours a day. Honestly, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? These men were guilty of overstaying their visas or entering the United States illegally. Horrific crimes deserving of such punishment? I think not.

Now, with Patriot Act II in the works, the American people have even more to fear from the Justice Department. It adds on provisions like the ability to access a citizen’s credit reports wtihout a subpoena, extend authorization period for wiretaps, secretly imprison citizens and to make it easier to use secret evidence. Don’t these new freedoms sound a little frightening? A little too secretive, pershps? The entire system of checks and balances seems to be thrown aside to make way for the terrorist-detection. To me, it does not seem like it could possibly be good for national security.

Recently, another development transpired in the privacy saga. The Department of Homeland Security named Nuala O’Connor Kelly chief privacy officer on April 16, 2003. She previously worked at an Internet advertising company as a privacy cop. Now, it seems she is going to police the entire government to ensure that no one gets too snoopy. Privacy advocates aren’t impressed — one person is assigned the task of checking every invasive but unfortunately leal move made by government officials. That doesn’t seem rational. Instead of trying to put out the fire by hiring someone to spit on it all day, why don’t they use a hose and, most importantly, stop throwing brush on it?

Congress needs to refuse to allow this “enhancement” to pass and also to fail to reauthorize the Patriot Act. A simple check into the Bill of Rights would surely solve this matter. For, once they take away our rights, what do we have left?

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