"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Friday, November 18, 2005

Patriot Threat

Congress Must Stop Rush To Undermine Liberties

The revised Patriot Act that is steamrolling through Congress this week must be stopped. It is dangerous to liberty.

The draft version making its way around Capitol Hill Thursday was sold as adding safeguards on some of the most offensive government intrusions into the lives of Americans. But these supposed protections are largely illusory. In some cases they require federal investigators to seek court approval for fishing expeditions into thousands of records -- from businesses, libraries, banks and doctor's offices -- but prevent judges from questioning government claims that these records might be "relevant" to a terrorism investigation.

Forget about providing even a reasonable link between an investigative target and terrorism, or about letting targets know they've been watched or had their private records searched. The government even forbids those compelled to turn over records from ever talking about it.

None of this protects the individual liberties on which this country was founded. Of course, nothing about the way the Patriot Act has been handled reflects good government, either. This broad expansion of government power over citizens was rushed into law 45 days after 9/11. Anyone who spoke out against it was deemed a terrorist sympathizer. In the intervening years, more than 400 communities, businesses and varied interest groups rallied against its most egregious snooping provisions.

This summer, the Senate passed a bill that installed important safeguards. The House, which had only made the Patriot Act worse, delayed until last week naming negotiators to hash out the differences, then -- poof! -- delivered a revised

draft Wednesday and began scheduling votes before committee

members, including Michigan U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, could review its

220 pages.

This is the kind of headlong rush that led to the act's worst aspects in the first place. Similar closed-door politicking led to the mess that is the Medicare prescription plan.

With more than a month until some provisions of the Patriot Act expire, Congress should not be bullied into a premature vote on an insidious bill. The government needs the proper tools to fight terrorism, but it doesn't need carte blanche for domestic spying.

The real patriots are the lawmakers trying to stop this further erosion of American liberty.



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