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Too Little, Too Late - The Patriot Act Is Passed

Reported by Donna - March 8, 2006

How interesting that Fox would put forth a story reflecting badly on the Patriot Act. Well, perhaps not so interesting in light of the fact that the coverage came after the Patriot Act had been passed by Congress.

It's so great that Fox is being fair and balanced by showing the bad side of the Patriot Act -- I find the timing of this segment suspect and wonder why it wasn't put on the air until after the Patriot Act was passed? See, this way Fox gets to have it's cake and eat it, too.

The following is my transcript between Shepard Smith and Judge Andrew Napolitano regarding the passage of the Patriot Act. Notice the candor with which the judge and Smith speak. It's so easy to speak out against something after it's already passed into law. It would have been brave of Fox to run this segment beforehand, but brave journalism? From Fox? Who am I kidding?

Shepard Smith: After months of bitter fighting the USA Patriot Act made it's way through Congress and it's on its way to the president. There are pictures from the House passing it last night (video shot of Congress) but there's a lot about this you may not know. (Comment: Could that be because the media was not doing it's job? Because we're only hearing this now?) Joining us now on Studio B to discuss what it's all about is Judge Andrew Napolitano, our Senior Judicial Analyst. You've been studying this thing a lot. What have you learned?

Judge Andrew Napolitano: Well, I have learned that the Patriot Act, in the name of fighting terrorism, allows agents to do things that we've never allowed them to do in the history of the United States.

SS: For instance?

JAN: For instance, to read our mail without us knowing it and without getting a search warrant. They can go to the post office, they can write their own search warrant and require the post office to give them your mail......

SS: .....without a judge....

JAN: Without a judge involved at all. They can go to your bank, your lawyer, your doctor, your accountant, your computer server, your telephone company, again (his emphasis) without a search warrant from a judge, but with their own, self hand written search warrant and require those people, who keep confidential information on all Americans, to turn that over. You may say, 'Well, my doctor would call me, my banker would call me.'

Well....no (his emphasis). They will tell the person to whom they're giving the self written search warrant it's a felony for them to speak to anyone about it. They can't tell their spouse, they can't tell their lawyer. They can't even tell a Federal Judge in a Federal Judge's courtroom that they have been the recipient of one of these search warrants. That, of course, prevents them from challenging it for a year. We are not accustomed in this country to having that kind of power in the hands of federal agents.

We have always put a neutral judge between the government agent and the target of that agent. The Patriot Act changes that.

SS: And they can break into your house?

JAN: The Patriot Act, with a search warrant, allows Federal agents to break into your house, make it look like a burglary, steal your checkbook and leave and they don't have to tell you about it for a year. Now, you may say, well, why?

SS: They would only do that for terrorism, though. Isn't that what they're supposed to do?

JAN: That's what they're supposed to do, however, they have used this power to fight organized crime, drug dealing, pornography and political corruption. The last in the city of Las Vegas.

SS: But surely they've gotten some terrorist convictions out of this?

JAN: They've gotten no (his emphasis) terrorist convictions out of any of this.....

SS: None?

JAN: ...evidence they've obtained out of the Patriot Act. Zero, never. They've gotten a series of guilty pleas, they've gotten convictions on these other crimes......

SS: But not on terror?

JAN: But not on terror. They have done their best to keep evidence obtained under the Patriot Act from being introduced into Federal court because they don't want a Federal Judge to find the Patriot Act unconstitutional. Now, five Federal Judges have ruled on it so far, two appointed by President George H.W. Bush. All five have found it unconstitutional. They've found the self written search warrant aspect unconstitutional. They found the part that says 'thou shall not speak' unconstitutional. It violates the first amendment.

But the Justice Department keeps enforcing it and the Congress has just made it stronger, made it more difficult for people targeted under the Patriot Act, whether it's acts of terror or whatever (Comment: Yeah, too bad if you fall under that 'whatever' category) to challenge the government's behavior.

SS: What's the fear?

JAN: The fear is that Government Agents, without the restraint of a judge, will have too much power and will violate the rights that the Constitution guarantees us. Remember, we wrote the 4th Amendment because British soldiers had the right to write their own search warrants, we didn't want any of that. 200 years later we're back where we started.

SS: Will this be found unconstitutional?

JAN: I think it will. All five judges who have looked at it so far have done so and I think as it makes its way through the appellate system, it will be found unconstitutional as well. Now, the president has argued that it will only be used against the bad guys, it will only be used against terrorists that are so sophisticated that we needed to respond with this sophistication. We need to give law enforcement more breathing room, more elbow room when attacking them.

That remains to be seen. Law enforcement has not, as we talked earlier, used this just to attack terrorism, they've used it all over. (Comment: 'They've used it all over meaning they can search anything, anytime they want, nothing to do with terrorism) Because, quite frankly, it makes their job a lot easier. If they don't have to run to a judge to get a search warrant, they can write their own search warrant, they can do their job easier and quicker.

But at the price of our freedoms. (Comment: And this is too big a price)

SS: Judge, thank you.

JAN: You're welcome, Shep.


Comments: Thanks for taking the time to read this, I know it was long but felt it was important. Why didn't Fox make this argument during the last few weeks or the last few months? Remember what a hot button issue this was around the holidays?

Could we all be taking part in a Rovian nightmare? Where is the media? It's so great of Fox to take a stance, after the fact! Did the administration put the Dubai port issue out there to deflect and distract? Sounds like the plan to me. Remember, when your house is broken into, or your confidential medical or bank records are gone through, you won't know for at least a year.

They can write their own search warrants? Do you know what happens with unbridled power? Maybe something similar to another secret police, say the SS?

I am at my wits end here. How much secretiveness and unbridled power are we going to give to an administration who has not had one single conviction of terrorism through this Patriot Act?

Shame on Congress, I urge you to write and find out how your representatives have voted and show them that we still have a voice in this.

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