Patriot Act

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Iraq War


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This is a yawner to me as to what it was in 2002 -- what concerns me is what it might devolve into. (Is it a slippery slope). What the Patriot Act says is that the same intrusions on our freedoms (same exact search and seizure clauses) that we allowed for the “drug war” should be allowed for “the war on terror”. I agree those intrusions are cause for raising eyebrows and should be discussed; but there were more justifications against foreign terrorists than domestic citizens. Where were the Democrats decrying the death of the Fourth Amendment in the 70’s? Or for that matter in 2011 when Obama extended the Patriot Act or signed the replacement "Freedom Act" that was the same thing under a new name?


The Europeans claim this is an extreme law, allowing us to lock people up without charging them in cases of terror. There's some clauses in there around this that give me pause.

What they ignore is that this is less ominous than Frances laws allowing the imprisonment of people for 3 years without charges. Not to mention their Napoleanic law; “Guilty until proven innocent” which the entire EU tolerated. Germany isn’t much better. So I tend to ignore it when the ignorant or hypocritical throw stones at us for being nearly as bad as France, while heaping praise on the French for calling us names.

Facts

The basics were it said that you could tap conversations between foreign nationals (expected terrorists) into the U.S. without a warrant.

  1. Both parties agreed to "the war on drugs" allowing warrantless searches in the drug war. Some said it should be applied to international calls and in certain cases in the terror war. The patriot act passed with 97% support (including the Democrats). Frankly, applying it to terrorism was completely rational, and more rational than using it for the drug war. I have yet to hear of a good argument about the real intrusion/abuse.
  2. Then Democrats tried to blame it all on republicans, and claiming that they didn't read it, or didn't know what it meant. Claiming ignorance or incompetence means you should be voted out.
  3. European equivalents were often far more expansive, and on their books long before or after. So any of those Europeans whining about our act, while ignoring their own, should probably ignore the splinter in their brothers eye, and pay attention to the log in their own.

As an implementation as a reaction to 9/11, that was fairly modest and reasonable (compared to how bad it could have gone).

Concerns

My problem with it, was that it had some sunset provisions (set for 2005) and the Congress extended them. I blame the media for not calling more attention to that. There should have been restrictions on if it expanded, this whole law goes away. Otherwise it will entropy and grow over time (the slippery slope) -- but the slopes are rarely as slippery as the chicken little's pretend. Outlawing drunk driving has not resulted in alcohol prohibition, and in fact pushback against TSA or Patriot Act (or legalization of drugs) sort of proves that the opposite, that unpopular overreaches self correct (just too slowly). Let's cry foul when there's any scope creep into areas that are intrusive, instead of ones that aren't.

So is it something we should watch? Of course. Is it the boogeyman? Not so much. Show me examples of its abuse or as major an intrusion into my life as the current tax code is, and I'll be on the protest lines with you. Otherwise, this is sitting at about 294th on my list of most important things that intrude on my civil liberties. (Anti-smoking laws come in higher, and I'm not a smoker).

Conclusion

So it was fairly selective in what we allow. It may be too much, and we have gone further on some rules of imprisonment of non-nationals than before the war -- but some perspective (context) is in order. Lest you forget, this is child’s play compared to what Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt have done -- both suspending habeus corpus, trials, and just imprisoning whole groups of people. In the history of our major wars, the Patriot act is mild and has encroached on our freedoms very little -- even if I wasn't completely happy with it.

So some complaints are valid, some aren't. Most are extremist lies (overstatements) of complex issues -- and that I push back against. We need to discuss it, and use scalpel not a hatchet to fix it, or else the replacement(s) could be worse. So the solution is not to claim the whole thing is wrong, or the republicans were wrong for sponsoring it (when both sides did), we need to be adults and do some refinement and stifle the rhetoric. The biggest issue is not how far we’ve gone, but how long we’ll stay here, or whether we can learn and adapt back, finding the right balance. It is much harder to find balance when you have ignorant people on both sides taking extreme positions and screaming epithets and lies at you.

Written: 2005.08.04

Epilogue

I was right. My problem wasn't with how it was used in the first few years. It was the slow encroachment and emboldened behavior over time. When Obama ran on repealing it, I thought "Good", at least one thing I can agree with him on.... then he waited years 3 years and renewed it for 4 years. Asshat. And then started abusing FISA warrants going after his political enemies (which predates the Patriot act, but showed how he really stood on privacy). And there's the problem. The original implementation isn't always bad, the entropy is. And that's when we should take their toys away.

Section 215 (which allowed the NSA mass phone surveillance) was amended out. But I'm pissed that was in, and it wasn't called out by any of the so called Press as a risk for them doing what they were doing.

What also irks me, is that the replacement for it (or major revision/rewrite) the USA "Freedom Act", was passed under Obama -- so it got virtually no scrutiny by the Press and leftists who had whined incessantly about how Bush was intruding on our rights. Yet, this one was signed readily by Obama and Democrats and virtually just changed the name and extended most of the previously controversial parts of the Patriot act. So little changed, and yet the one passed under Obama was just accepted as OK. While Bush was a fascist for doing virtually the same thing, during far more of a crisis (not 16 years after that crisis).

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