Patriot Act Palpitations

The Patriot Act is an important tool in fighting the War on Terror and should be permanently extended in its entirety.  In 2001, after the horrific September 11th attacks this bill was signed into law to dramatically reduce restrictions on law enforcement agencies including the ability to search telephone, emails, and financial records.  In 2005 fourteen of the seventeen provisions were made permanent.  The remaining three provisions are due to expire on February 28th of this year.  These provisions grant authority for roving wiretaps on terror suspects as they change phones or locations; allows the examination of business records including library records of terror suspects; and the "lone wolf provision" which allows surveillance of foreigners who are somehow tied to a foreign agent.

Earlier this week the House passed a ten month extension and the Senate passed only a three month extension.  The attempt to pass this Act by using the rapid procedure rule was defeated by strange bed fellows, rightist Republicans and leftist Democrats.  These opponents wrongly view the three provisions as an overreach of federal authority into people's private lives. 

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told American Thinker that "the Patriot Act is the most misunderstood and misrepresented piece of legislation I have ever seen.  The notion of sweeping powers given to the government is just not true.  It requires a court order or subpoena for the government to do anything."  Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the Patriot Act, is frustrated at the outcry since none of the provisions was held unconstitutional and no civil liberties violations have ever occurred. He feels that Americans, including members of his own party, need to be educated to understand that all of the provisions need a search warrant from the FISA court (a branch of the federal court) and that the FBI cannot do anything until a petition is granted by a FISA judge.  

Americans need to understand that the Patriot Act is an extremely important tool in fighting the War on Terror.  Terrorist groups were infiltrated and terrorist acts prevented because of the powers given by this act to law enforcement.  Sensenbrenner cannot imagine how law enforcement could be successful "without the roving wire tap provision since it brought the law up to date with technology.  Today people can buy hundreds of cell phones, use them for one call, and throw them out.  Logistically a warrant could not be obtained for every cell phone and the time period used by each phone would render the warrant useless."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently testified that the terrorist threat is more heightened today than since 9/11, which is a sober reminder that the potential for another attack is real and growing.  A statistic supporting this assertion is that there were twenty-two terrorist plots last year, compared to twenty-one during the previous eight years.  It is mind boggling that there are those in Congress who would not support the Patriot Act since terrorists have no less desire today to kill Americans than they did on September 11th.  Fran Townsend, President Bush's former homeland security advisor, thinks there has not been another homeland terrorist attack "as a result of our changes in law and policy.  One of the important changes is to give the tools to law enforcement so they prevent an act, not just prosecuting it after the fact.  The Patriot Act is a significant tool in that regard. I do not believe the civil libertarian concerns are warranted.  This bill is needed to prevent acts of terrorism and there are procedural safe guards in the act to make sure it is used appropriately."

Those who question the Patriot Act and who oppose the extension of the three provisions have to consider whether they would be fine with another terrorist attack resulting from handicapping law enforcement.  Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director, emphasizes that the current and future terrorist plots "will be a lower threshold initiated by self radicalized and home grown terrorists.  That is precisely the kind of threat the Patriot Act gives the tools to work against.  It seems insane that at this point you would want to eliminate the piece of legislation that is most geared to the emerging threat."

Those opposed to this bill are not doing their due diligence, which is making sure the country protects its citizens.  They have an abstract commitment to the concept of civil liberties and ignore the legitimate security concerns.  All agreed with Congressman Rogers that "the Patriot Act has all the protections of the Fourth Amendment including due process and allows us to adapt to the newest technology in order to protect the US and prevent another terrorist attack here at home.  We intend to clear up any misunderstanding by some Congressmen and point out that it does not allow the federal government the ability to get information or compel someone to give information without a judge's approval."  All interviewed believe that before the next vote Congress will be educated about the misinformation they have regarding the Patriot Act.  Whether those jumping on the civil liberties band wagon choose to inform themselves remains to be seen, and if they do not it will be at the detriment to America's safety.
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