Monday, March 1, 2010

Time to Start Acting Like Patriots, Not Patriot Acting

In case you missed it: this weekend saw the extension of the unconstitutional and misnamed "Patriot Act"--an affront to our liberties and a failure at keeping us safe. It was politics as usual with the re-authorization flying under the radar, disguised as a vote to approve Senate amendments to the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act.

Those familiar with the legislation know its history (composed of failed leftover power grabs from the Clinton administration, it was rushed through in the fearful aftermath of 9/11) and its contents (an unprecedented allowance of government intrusion and constitutional infringement, including the ability to bypass the constitutional requirement for warrants in a number of cases).

Benjamin Franklin once stated, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither." Sadly, in post 9/11 America, we seem to be getting exactly what we deserve. Our feeble attempt to subvert our liberties in the name of security has made us neither freer nor safer.

Now the Supreme Court is dealing with another aspect of the massive piece of legislation. With its broad ability to crack down on those offering support to "terrorist groups," the Patriot Act may actually be being used in the cracking down on humanitarian groups and those seeking peace--all the while in a violation of First Amendment guarantees.

Warren Richey reports:
The law makes it a crime to provide “material support” to a known terrorist organization. It is designed to isolate terrorists by making it more difficult for them to receive assistance, services, and recruits.

But critics say the government has adopted such a broad reading of “material support” that even peace activists working to persuade a terror group to pursue nonviolent methods of political change would themselves be liable for up to 15 years in prison for providing “support” to terrorists.

“[The law] imposes criminal liability on speech and association without any showing that the speaker intended to incite or promote terrorist activity in any way,” writes Georgetown Law Professor David Cole in his brief to the court on behalf those challenging the law.
In my humble opinion, the problem goes even further.With the government's already embarrassing and bloated terror watch list proving to be deeply flawed, there is little hope that much faith can be put in Uncle Sam to not abuse its new-found authority and suppress innocents here at home. We already know actual terrorists don't make the list, while innocent citizens do. So can we truly feel comfortable while the government is viewing its own innocent citizens as "domestic terrorists?" I think not.

The Patriot Act leaves too much room for abuse, too much room for persecution of innocents, and has done too little to achieve its goal of making us safer (plus it is unconstitutional!) . Just look at the piles of evidence for proof of the former and to the number of recent terrorist attacks on American soil as proof of the latter.

I applaud those who voted against the measure, and am deeply ashamed of those who refused to stand for the Constitution. If we want to be safe and free, we do not need the Patriot Act; we need to follow the Constitution.

What's sure is this: increased government power and decreased individual liberty is not the answer in keeping us safe. Rather, we should promote our national defense through constitutional means; that's the actions of a true patriot.

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