Joining the debate on the Patriot Act

Attempts to renew the Patriot Act, as presently envisioned, were blocked in the Senate. (see here)

I wish to join this debate.

First let me extend my hand of congratulations to the Senate. I love the fact that they seem to be willing to debate this issue in a manner that reflects the concerns of the American people as a whole.

I want to chime in with my own thoughts on the matter.

First off I do not want to see any of the steps taken becoming permanent just yet. Perhaps some of the steps will be proven in time to be wise, but I am unwilling to give my stamp of approval to "everything" just yet.

I realize that we are at war. I am willing to give our law enforcement agencies some "extraordinary" powers to fight this war. We are faced with an enemy that is willing to exploit the weaknesses of our society. I am willing to allow our law enforcement personnel some "extraordinary" powers to plug some of the holes up. If they insist on taking advantage of these "extraordinary" powers in a manner that they were not intended then these powers should be taken away from them.

There is evidence that, in fact, some of this has been going on. Those in power have engaged in surveillance of peace groups that meet in Quaker meeting halls for example. Someone needs to be fired over this. Did they break the law? Not as defined by the Patriot Act, but they certainly displayed an extreme lack of prudent judgment. If they think that terrorist cells are going to be found amongst the Quakers they are displaying an extreme absence of common sense. This example treads over the line of what I find to be acceptable. It marks an example of efforts to suppress political opposition, not just illegal activity.

There is evidence also that law enforcement agencies have tried to exploit the Patriot Act to crack down on the drug trade. I am not going to condemn this too loudly because I think the drug trade is worthy of suppression. However it is an example of how law enforcement will be willing to exploit their "extraordinary" powers in ways they were not intended. However I will also point out that cases like this help identify some powers of the Patriot Act that should become routine, such as roving wire taps.

I am still extremely worried about granting those in political power the ability to possibly exploit these extraordinary powers for political gain and to persecute their political opponents. I am old enough, and informed enough, that the names Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover means something to me.

I am grateful that the Senate is debating this issue and continuing to exercise their responsibility to safeguard the rights of the American people.

However I would encourage the Senate to realize that we still need to grant extraordinary powers to those who seek to defend us. Perhaps the powers granted needs to be tweaked a little bit, but largely these powers need to remain, at least for now.


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