Conservatives And Liberals Unite In Opposition To Patriot II

By Michael Gaddy
For Sierra Times


It would be a sure bet that the Ashcroft led U.S. Department of Justice would like to see both ends of the political spectrum come together in support of their "anti-terrorism" programs, but it would appear just the opposite is happening.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Bill of Rights Defense Council, are expressing concerns about the effect that the USA Patriot Act and a possible follow-up law, the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, could have on civil liberties.

ABC news reports more than 60 towns, cities and counties around the country have passed resolutions criticizing the act, some going so far as to instruct municipal employees including police not to assist federal agents in investigations that they believe violate the Constitution.

Joining groups like the ACLU, right-leaning groups such as the American Conservative Union, the Eagle Forum and Gun Owners of America say they are concerned that American citizens could also be victimized by what they say are unconstitutional law enforcement powers allowed by the "Patriot" and this potential enhancement act.

The heart of the issue, according to conservatives, liberals and constitutional scholars, is the effect that USA Patriot has already had on issues of probable cause and due process, and that both of those concepts would be further eroded if the so-called Patriot II were adopted as it appears in the draft form.
ABC also reported that according to what is in the draft, if adopted it would allow the Justice Department to wiretap a person for 15 days without a warrant; federal agents could secretly arrest people and provide no information to their family, the media or their attorney until charges are brought, no matter how long that took; and it would allow the government to strip Americans of their citizenship for even unknowingly helping a group that is connected to an organization deemed to be terrorist.

It would also make it a crime for people subpoenaed in connection with an investigation being carried out under the Patriot Act to alert Congress to any possible abuses committed by federal agents.

There is also no "sunset provision," which constitutional scholars say removes the element of congressional oversight and means lawmakers would have no way of compelling the Justice Department to prove that the powers provided in the act have not been abused.

"There's no question the government has to have the tools to protect us from terror attacks and to prosecute those who want to harm us," ACU Executive Director Stephen Thayer said, "But having said that, the American Conservative Union wants to be sure that Congress takes into account the civil liberties of the citizens and through their deliberations reaches the proper balance between law enforcement and protecting citizens' rights," he added.

Christopher Pyle, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served on the Church Committee, a Senate select committee that studied government intelligence gathering, put it a bit more forcefully.

"I don't think the Fourth Amendment exists anymore," said Pyle, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, referring to the amendment that prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and requires probable cause for a search or arrest. "I think it's been buried by the Patriot Act and some of the court rulings that have been handed down. We need a requiem mass for the Fourth Amendment, because it's gone."

Among the concerns Thayer said he has about the draft version of Patriot II are the broad expansion of surveillance and information-gathering powers, the granting of immunity to businesses and their personnel who provide information to anti-terrorism investigators even if the information is fraudulent, and the power to strip native-born Americans of their citizenship.
Michael Hammond, a consultant with Gun Owners of America, which has more than 200,000 members, echoed those concerns, and said that the vague definition given to the term "terrorist" is extremely troubling.

"We have some serious concerns and part of our concerns spring from the fact that some of our members are part of the so-called militia movement," Hammond said. "We're looking into whether some of these groups or even the NRA [National Rifle Association] could be designated terrorists by this or a future administration."

It would certainly appear those of us who support the U.S. Constitution are in for a real storm. Those of you who are Bush supporters and believe these unconstitutional actions by the government are justified to fight terrorism, just imagine -if you will - these same powers in the hands of Hillary Clinton.


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