Patriot Act Is Helping Dismantle Constitutional Liberties
The first argument used by the feds is the Justice Department's report that the Patriot Act has been used by law enforcement to conduct investigations leading to the conviction of more than 200 defendants for terrorist-related crimes. However, according to The Washington Post, "the numbers are misleading at best."
The Post report (Sunday, June 12, 2005; A01) stated, "An analysis of the Justice Department's own list of terrorism prosecutions by The Washington Post shows that 39 people, not 200, as officials have implied, were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security."
The Post report said, "Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law and had nothing to do with terrorism."
Would the feds exaggerate and deceive Congress and the American people in order to gain more power? They obviously would and have! And, unfortunately, it appears that Congress is more than willing to give the White House what it wants.
Just recently the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to expand the powers of the FBI "to subpoena records without the approval of a judge or grand jury in terrorism investigations under Patriot Act revisions approved Tuesday [June 7]." (Source: Associated Press) It is the Patriot Act's expansion of federal police power that should be of concern to every freedom-loving citizen in this country!
America's Founding Fathers placed the Bill of Rights into our Constitution to insure that the rights of liberties of our citizens would not be abridged by the insatiable desire of the federal government for limitless power. The Patriot Act is a modern-day justification of the founders' wisdom, because abridging liberty is exactly what it does.
Specifically, the Patriot Act eviscerates the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments and does serious injury to others. Under Patriot Act provisions, American citizens may be arrested (or even held without being arrested) and incarcerated without being charged with a crime or even without a judge's order. The government does not have to tell the press who has been arrested or where they are being detained.
The Patriot Act authorizes federal police to perform searches and seizures of private property without warrant. It authorizes federal wiretaps without judicial oversight. It allows the feds to monitor our internet usage, intercept e-mails and internet communications, all without judicial oversight.
Furthermore, the definitions contained within the Patriot Act of what constitutes "terrorism" is downright Orwellian. For example, according to Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), "The bill as written defines terrorism as acts intended 'to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.' Under this broad definition, a scuffle at an otherwise peaceful pro-life demonstration might subject attendees to a federal investigation. We have seen abuses of law enforcement authority in the past to harass individuals or organizations with unpopular political views."
The number of Americans who have been subjected to various kinds of federal investigation and abuse is incalculable. I can tell my readers that I have been victimized by the Department of Homeland Security when my name appeared on one of its "potential terrorist lists" when I tried to board a Continental flight out of San Antonio, Texas.
According to press reports, thousands of innocent Americans have been subjected to the scrutiny of myriad federal police agencies. It now appears that our federal government has determined that we are guilty until proven innocent. This is not the America that our fathers fought and died to bequeath to us!
Beyond that, as with the federal government's "war on drugs," so too its "war on terrorism" is everlasting. It never ends. Those who suggest that there will be a cessation to the "war on terror" are living in a dream world. Once having established the federal machinery to fight this broad and undefined war, there is no turning back. There can never be a declaration of victory or let-up of intensity. The machinery can only become larger and larger.
The line we constantly hear from the Bush administration is, "Trust us. We would never abuse our new-found power." Oh, really? Just recently, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted that the FBI misused powers contained in the Patriot Act when it searched the home and seized the property of Brandon Mayfield, then used the information to wrongly portray the man as a Muslim militant. (Source: The Sacramento Union, April 6, 2005) How many other federal abuses of power have we not been told about?
However, even if the current Justice Department would not intentionally abuse the provisions of the Patriot Act, what guarantees do the American people have that future departments would be as benign? For example, I wonder how comfortable conservatives would be with the knowledge that President Hillary Clinton's Justice Department had the latitudes and laxities of the Patriot Act at its disposal? Remember, folks, the powers granted to the federal government by the Patriot Act will be enjoyed not only by this administration, but by every administration yet to come!
The idea that we must fight terrorism by dismantling the constitutional liberties of the American people is fraught with fallacy. America has fought a revolutionary war, two world wars, and numerous conflicts and, until now, has mostly held the Bill of Rights to be sacred and irrevocable. Suddenly, it asks its citizens to relinquish their liberties in the name of security.
Before the American people surrender their liberties to the an ever-burgeoning and meddlesome federal bureaucracy, however, we should well remember the sage counsel of Benjamin Franklin, who said, "They that give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither."
© 2005 Chuck Baldwin. This article was originally circulated at chuckbaldwinlive.com and is republished in the Chronicle with permission of the author. The author, a minister who holds two doctorates of divinity, hosts a radio program called "Chuck Baldwin Live,' whose broadcast area includes the Florida Panhandle and Southern Alabama. The program is described on its website as "conservative, Christian, pro-life, pro-family, and patriotic. We support constitutional government and the Bill of Rights. We hold fast to the principles and values expressed by the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence." The author was the Constitution Party's 2004 vice-presidential candidate.
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This story was published on June 19, 2005.