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The Patriot Act Is Unpatriotic

Reported by Ellen - June 15, 2005

In honor of Flag Day, Alan Colmes hosted a lengthy segment on Patriot Act II last night. He said, "There's nothing more patriotic than fighting the Patriot Act, as far as I'm concerned."

Colmes' guest was Lisa Graves, Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy for the ACLU. They talked about how Patriot Act II was marked up by the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors. The committee voted to not only expand the Patriot Act but to make "most of it permanent," according to Graves.

After noting that a lot of the ACLU-bashing has served to divert attention away the real issue of the substance of The Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, Graves and Colmes gave a chilling rundown of the new provisions.

According to Graves, Patriot Act II will allow the FBI to issue its own search orders, without any court review, for your personal records from medical facilities, libraries and gun dealers without even allowing you to know. "It could be a real fishing expedition into a broad array of records held by that business," she said.

"They want to pull the credit reports, tax records, business records on anyone who happens to bump into someone (who might be a terrorist suspect) at the grocery store, in the food market, at the food court, anyplace, and pull all of your data."

Colmes added, "This new Patriot Act would force postal workers to disclose the name, address, and information appearing on envelopes delivered to and from people - anybody the FBI designates - I mean anybody could be victimized here by our government."

Graves said that under the Patriot Act (the one we already have) there are secret searches of people's homes with a court order and that people don't find out until up to 180 days or more and that that power is being used "primarily not in terrorism cases." She noted that the President was out on the stump recently saying there have been 400 terrorism prosecutions but, she said, the Department of Justice testified under oath last month that there had been only 12 convictions. She said that a lot of the 400 prosecutions the president referred to were for minor infractions, such as immigration violations.

Colmes brought up the point that the government had all the information it needed to stop 9/11, it just didn't use it correctly. (Comment: I don't know why this is usually overlooked by the media in its Patriot Act coverage. I think if the point were driven home - as it should be, the public would be much less predisposed toward the Patriot Act.) Colmes said, "Had they just enforced the laws we had back in 2001... Had we just fixed lack of communication among government agencies and watch visas - we didn't need more laws on the books to infringe on our Fourth Amendment and First Amendment rights."

Graves: That's exactly right. Certainly the 9/11 Commission talked about how a lot of that information was already out there and there just wasn't a lot of communication within the government."

She said that one of the problems before 9/11 was that there was too much intelligence that was going unanalyzed so the expansion of FBI powers to go through "everybody's records" would be to "add a lot more hay to the needles in the haystack that we're trying to find." "What we're saying is focus our precious, limited terrorism-fighting resources on terrorists." "What these powers would do... would basically make every American's records open to the FBI to examine at any time on its own order and we have a Fourth Amendment that basically says people have a right to be secure in their persons, in their homes and their papers from unreasonable searches and seizures and unless there's some sort of probable cause that they've done something wrong. We want our terrorism resources to focus on the terrorists and not on law-abiding Americans. I think that's the American way."

Colmes said Democrats "feel they have to do something so they can show that they're on the ramparts responding to our vulnerabilities which I don't think this addresses. What I think this really does, it makes every American vulnerable to an overreaching FBI. Look what happened when J. Edgar Hoover ran it for 40 years." He also discussed the House hearings on Friday which James Sensenbrenner abruptly ended before walking out. Colmes called Sensenbrenner's behavior "abominable." (Comment: I saw most of the hearing on C-Span and that is a perfectly accurate description of Sensenbrenner's behavior throughout the hearing.)

Bob in Ohio called in to say that watching Sensenbrenner's hearing on Friday inspired him to join the ACLU, even though he voted for Bush twice. "I'm in such denial and guilt that I also contributed to the Democratic Congressional candidate."

Bob's happy news was followed by Mark in Texas (where else?) who said that "a certain amount" of Muslims should be rounded up and put in internment camps. "There should be no problem as far as spying on our domestic enemies - the Muslims."

Colmes expressed doubt that Russ Feingold's Safe Act, which would require the government to have a specific, credible link to show someone is a terrorist suspect, that the records show a link connecting them to a foreign agent, would have any chance of passing.

But Graves said she thinks there is a decent chance, that there's mounting opposition to the Patriot Act. She said that conservatives like Bob Barr, Larry Craig and other Republicans are joining the fight to make some fixes because "This type of power is so expansive and so intrusive that no branch of government, no matter which administration it is, should have this sort of unchecked power."

Colmes said, "I think the most patriotic thing one can do is overturn the Patriot Act."

I agree. Contact your congressional representative and your senators.

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