The Bush administration proclaimed their questionable win earlier this month a "mandate" for their goals. Looking at their track record, one of these goals must be the complete gutting of the U.S. Constitution.
When was the last time you heard anything about the USA PATRIOT Act? Do you know who’s reading your emails? Do we even remember what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to protect?
Well, maybe it’s time we all refreshed our memories. The Patriot Act was signed into law on Oct. 26, 2001, less than two months after Sept. 11.
There was immediate backlash from civil rights organizations like the ACLU because the act expanded the government’s means of invading our privacy and violating our First and Fourth Amendment rights to freedom of speech and privacy.
The FBI need not show probable cause to conduct searches under the act, nor notify the person whose records it seeks, if they believe that person is engaged in criminal activity. Again, this is something the Fourth Amendment explicitly requires, for our own protection.
The list goes on and on, and gets scarier and scarier.
Bush has also repeatedly urged Congress to make the Patriot Act permanent by ignoring the sunset clause that would allow parts of it to be revisited in December 2005.
However, resolutions have been passed to protect civil liberties and amend the Act in 361 communities in 43 states, including four Oregon statewide resolutions.
There are also 21 campuses across the country with similar anti-Patriot resolutions, seven of those being faculty resolutions, and the rest student resolutions. While PSU is not currently one of those campuses, a visit to www.aclu.org will give you the tools you need to get one passed.
These community resolutions represent around 55.2 million citizens (almost four million more people than voted for Bush) who oppose sections of the Patriot Act. That may be a "mandate," but not exactly for what Bush claims.
Luckily, people are working hard to win back ground lost through the passage of this act.
In New York in September, a federal court struck down an entire Patriot Act provision that gives the government authority to issue "National Security Letters" to obtain customer records from Internet Service Providers and other businesses without oversight.
The court also found a broad gag provision in the law to be an "unconstitutional prior restraint" on free speech. While this is good news, other parts of the act are continually being used to impinge on your rights and invade your privacy.
Unfortunately, we aren’t hearing much about violations of civil liberties under this odious act. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a leader in the fight to destroy the Bill of Rights, would like you to believe that’s because there haven’t been any, but that’s just not the case.
The Patriot Act is peppered with gag provisions like the one struck down in September which makes it impossible for people to know when their rights have been violated, a necessary precondition to reporting abuses.
While privacy violations are a major part of the Patriot Act, that’s unfortunately not all the act does; unfair immigrant racial profiling and detention without access to lawyers for unlimited amounts of time are also questionable "rights" given to the government.
For more information, or to get involved check out the ACLU web site, www.eff.org, or www.epic.org.