Left and Right Unite to Challenge Patriot Act


Richard Moore

From: "Brian Hill" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Emailing: 0323-01.htm
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 14:20:39 -0800
Organization: Institute  for Cultural Ecology

lets hope it grows - [yes indeed - rkm]


Published on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle

Left and Right Unite to Challenge Patriot Act Provisions
Group Wants Limits on Access Allowed Law Enforcement

by Edward Epstein

WASHINGTON-- An unusual left-right coalition opened a campaign
Tuesday to sharply curtail controversial provisions of the USA
Patriot Act, showing that Congress and President Bush face a
pointed debate over renewing the law enacted just 45 days
after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It was a Washington rarity to see the American Civil Liberties
Union line up with conservative lions like David Keefe of the
American Conservative Union and former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.
But they were among those at a Washington press conference
held to assail such Patriot Act provisions as those allowing
law enforcement agents to look at library users' records or to
conduct unannounced "sneak-and-peek'' searches on homes or
private offices.

"It is not, and never should be necessary, to surrender our
rights under the Bill of Rights to fight the war on
terrorism,'' said Barr, who as a House member voted for the
Patriot Act, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and
provoked only one dissenting Senate vote.

Barr, leader of the new group dubbed Patriots to Restore
Checks and Balances, concedes that the group faces a difficult
fight in making changes to the 4-year-old law. The law's
supporters, many of whom point out that the United States
hasn't been hit by another terrorist attack since Sept. 11,
say it has proven effective and that many of the complaints
offered by civil libertarians have nothing to do with the
act's provisions.

Key provisions of the bill are scheduled to expire Dec. 31, so
Congress must deal with the issue this year. The Senate and
House Judiciary Committees plan Patriot Act hearings starting
later in the spring.

Instead of seeking wholesale changes, the coalition is
focusing on three of the law's most-controversial provisions.
And rather than push for their repeal, the group wants the
wording clarified to establish that the intention is to fight
terrorists -- not let law enforcement agencies engage in
fishing expeditions or silence dissent.

The group wants the section giving access to library, medical
and firearm- ownership records modified to require that law
enforcement officials present evidence to a federal judge
supporting a link with suspected terrorism before warrants are

The group wants similar limits on the provision allowing
secret searches of homes, businesses and personal property.

And group members want the language of the section that allows
surveillance of protests rewritten to require a definite
connection with suspected terrorism.

"These provisions sweep far too broadly. Whenever people ram
through legislation with broad and vague authority, it
eventually will be abused,'' Barr said.

"If the Constitution stands for anything, it's that government
does not have the power to peer into our private lives without
evidence of wrongdoing, '' said Laura Murphy, of the ACLU's
Washington legislative office.

Grover Norquist, the conservative activist who heads Americans
for Tax Reform, noted the unlikely coalition of conservatives
and the ACLU.

"For too long, conservatives assumed it was someone else's
job'' to protect civil liberties, Norquist said.

So far, almost 400 local and state governments have passed
resolutions opposing the act, or some of its provisions, the
ACLU says.

President Bush campaigned last year in favor of renewing the
Patriot Act, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has
indicated he doesn't favor any changes except, perhaps, to
increase the government's powers in a few instances.

"Debate about government exercise of powers that might
infringe upon privacy or civil liberties, I think that's an
appropriate debate,'' he told a recent meeting of the National
Association of Counties. "But it's got to be a real debate,
one based on facts. And I've yet to hear a strong argument as
to why the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized.''

At a recent House hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller praised
the Patriot Act and said he'd like to see it expanded to
include administrative subpoena power in terrorism cases,
something the FBI has in organized crime and health- care
fraud investigations. The subpoenas, which require recipients
to disclose information, are signed by an FBI agent without
prior judicial or grand jury review.

Mueller said the Patriot Act is a key part of the FBI's new
post-Sept. 11 approach.

"We have changed the way we address terrorism since Sept. 11
to ensure that we have exploited every possibility to gather
intelligence about the motivations, the capabilities of these
individuals or groups in our communities before we go ahead
and make the arrest,'' he told a House panel.

© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
WHY WE NEED IT, AND HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE IT ", somewhat current draft:
    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

    Faith in ourselves - not gods, ideologies, leaders, or programs.
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