Thursday, April 14, 2005

Editorials on the Patriot Act from the Billings Gazette and The Nation

??? e-mails to draw our attention to this editorial from the Billings Gazette entitled "Gazette opinion: Time to make USA Patriot Act SAFE for all:"

The 2005 Montana Legislature took a bipartisan stand for principles of liberty and freedom embodied in the state and U.S. constitutions when it overwhelmingly approved a resolution saying that provisions of the USA Patriot Act should expire this year.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 was supported by 39 senators and 87 representatives. The resolution united legislators from all points of the political spectrum because they all support fighting terrorism but oppose "any portion of the USA Patriot Act that violates the rights and liberties guaranteed under the Montana Constitution or the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

The resolution doesn't have the force of law. But it does "exhort" state officials against assisting with any investigation or detentions under the USA Patriot Act that violate constitutionally guaranteed rights. It requests public schools and colleges to notify each individual whose education records have been obtained by law enforcement under the Patriot Act. It requests public libraries to post a notice to patrons that their library records may be obtained by federal authorities.
[. . .]

The Patriot Act was rushed through Congress in the terrifying days immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Even then, the congressional majority recognized that some of the act's far-reaching powers should not be permanent. That's why 16 provisions are due to sunset at year's end.
That's why a group of congressional Democrats and Republicans are supporting the Security and Freedom Enhancement Act of 2005. House and Senate versions of the SAFE Act were introduced earlier this month with Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, sponsoring the Senate bill.

"It is possible to fight terrorism without eroding the Constitution and the rights of Americans," Craig said.

The range of support for the SAFE Act speaks volumes about why this legislation is necessary. It has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the American Conservative Union and the League of Women Voters.

We'll also note The Nation editorial "Patriot Act Evasions:"

The sunset review of the Patriot Act marks a singular opportunity for Congress to catalogue abuses and rethink the Administration's rights-shredding approach to security. The Administration's obsession with secrecy makes a proper evaluation difficult, but the limited evidence so far available is alarming. Through January 2005 the Justice Department served at least 155 "sneak-and-peek" search warrants, undermining the fundamental American tradition requiring reasonable notice of searches and seizures. Many of those secret warrants involved not terrorism but conventional prosecution for violent crime and drugs--a broadening of police power with no national-security justification. Personal records have been seized on thirty-five occasions. And then there is what is not knowable. The expanded use of secret courts to hear secret evidence, particularly against foreign nationals but against citizens as well: Secret evidence was apparently a factor in the wrongful arrest of attorney Brandon Mayfield for what proved to be nonexistent connections to the Madrid bombing. The growing unease across party lines was unmistakable. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy blasted "the Administration's destruction of legitimate oversight" while former GOP Representative Bob Barr argued that national security "has taken precedence" over protecting civil liberties.

There is great risk that Congress will settle for technical fixes that limit the most highly publicized Patriot Act powers, or procrastinate on serious reform with another two years of sunset review. The Patriot Act, for all its noxiousness, is the symptom, not the disease--or rather, the gateway drug for an Administration addicted to the expansion of unaccountable executive-branch power. When Congress passed the act in 2001, not even its critics foresaw the full breadth of the Administration's sustained assault on civil liberties and the rule of law, against which federal courts are now in open revolt. For all his charm, the new Attorney General showed his true colors when senators Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy pressed the issue of rendition and the torture convention. Far from his highly hyped spirit of compromise, Gonzales replied three separate times with determinedly evasive logic: Prisoners should be kept away from abusive regimes only "when we believe it's more likely than not that they will be tortured."

If you see editorials asking for action on the Patriot Act and would like to share them with the community (or to write your own) please e-mail