Does Being a Patriot Means Giving Up Freedom?

I aplogise again for the political content here. But this is just something we should all know. That way, later, when and if things come to it, we can’t really just say, “oh dear”.

This is not paranoia. This is reality. And though reality may at times be something we prefer to push off to the side as we pursue our hapiness, this particular reality cuts straight into what we have come to take for granted – that very right which is our pursuit of happiness.

We all know about the 9/11 disaster. And the controversial Pentagon disaster. We’ve all heard about the Patriot Act.

After this disaster, in just 45 days, and no public debate, and without even public debate or debate even within Congress, the Senate version was sent straight to the floor for a vote, with no discussion whatsoever. The House version ended up with a compromise, but it was thrown out by House leadership, and a version mirroring the Senate was passed. Neither discussion nor amendments were permitted. The Bush Administration impled that Congressional members who voted against it would be responsible for any subsequent disasters.

I certainly realize that fighting terrorist threats is a great challenge. But I also realize that there are many forces in the world. This act removes many of the great and fundamental aspects of being a US citizen, leaving us to wonder, just what, then, are we fighting to protect?

What does it do? Here are some highlights:

  • It defines “domestic terrorism” which means that organizations are subject to just about any surveillance technique, just plain harassment if an even minor “case” can be made, and even criminal action for political advocacy
  • The government can conduct secret searches and survelliance, compelling organizations and other people to provide just about any kind of information, about anyone, while at the same time “gagging” these people from even telling anyone what’s going on.
  • Just by saying it’s for “intelligence purposes”, the government no longer needs probable cause to start the criminal process against people

The Patriot Act has even resulted in the President creating a “military commission” that is not even part of the Judicial Branch that can detain non-US citizens indefinitely without any cause whatsoever, and find people guilty with no facts whatsoever – but only a 2/3rds majority vote of this military commission.

And worse – American Citizens can be picked up, and detained indefinately by the military without any cause, detained indefinitely, without any access to anyone, including lawyers and the American judicial process itself.

Now, Patriot Act II is on its way. Here are some of it’s more severe problems:

  1. Federal agents are immune to the consequences of any illegal surveillance they perform if they were acting on the orders of high level Executive Branch officials.
  2. Expanding nationwide search warrants so they do not have to meet even the broad definition of terrorism in the Patriot Act.
  3. It allows for the sampling and cataloguing of anyone’s genetic information without any reason, and without consent or knowledge.
  4. Terminates court-approved limits on police spying, which were initially put in place to prevent McCarthy-style law enforcement persecution based on political or religious affiliation.
  5. Permits surveillance of US citizens based on even a foreign government wanting it, even if we have no treaties with that government
  7. If a citizen is even lucky enough to get a trial, the defense attorney cannot even argue against evidence that is considered “secret”.
  8. Grand jury witnesses are barred from discussing their testimony with the public in any way.
  9. AMIERICAN CITIZENS CAN BE STRIPPED OF THEIR CITIZENSHIP if they provide support to any unpopular organization that our government has deemed terrorist even if they support only lawful aspects of that organization – this would allow our citezenry to be detained indefinitely as undocumented aliens. By the way, it also greatly broadens what is meant by a “terrorist” group, and what it means to be associated with one, or support one. It even goes so far as to say that a terrorist group does not have to be officially designated as a terrorist group to be considered a terrorist group.
  10. 15 new death penalities! 😉 And you just have to be associated…

Then we have our few of our silly little Constitutional protections:

1st Amendment: freedom of speech, relgion, assembly and press.

4th Amendment: freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

5th Amendment: no person shall be deprived of life, libery or property without due process of law.

6th Amendment: right to speedy public trail by an impartial jury, right to be informed of the facts of the accusation, right to confront witnesses and have the assistance of legal counsel.

8th Amendment: No excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment.

14th Amendment: All people (citizens and non-citizens) are entitled to due process and the equal protection of the laws.

I’m writing this because of an article in the Seattle Times today:

The Federal judge strikes down part of Patriot Act as unconstitutional

Here are some of the highlights:

In his ruling, the judge called national security of “paramount value” and said the government “must be empowered to respond promptly and effectively” to threats. But he called personal security equal in importance and “especially prized in our system of justice.”

He noted that the Supreme Court recently said that a “state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.”

“Sometimes a right, once extinguished, may be gone for good,” Marrero wrote.

… The judge said the law violates the Fourth Amendment because it bars or deters any judicial challenge to the government searches, and violates the First Amendment because its permanent ban on disclosure is a prior restraint on speech.

If you’re interested in contacting your government representatives (or dare to do so… 😉 ) about the new “enhanced” Patriot Act coming up, the ACLU has a site devoted to it. This site asks our representatives to reconsider it. If you want a site that supports it, well, I don’t know of one, and don’t really feel like looking for one, but I’m sure there’s one out there.