June 10, 2005

Editorial:

This Time Let There Be a Debate on the U.S. Patriot Act

The Patriot Act was enacted 45 days after the 9/11 attack, with hardly a debate or dissent. Congress approved over 150 separate sections, under ten major titles, expanding the powers of Law Enforcement and of the White House, with one caveat, that the most extreme of the law enforcement powers be attached with a “Sunset” date. About a tenth of the U.S. Patriot Act will expire on December 31, 2005 unless Congress renews the act before the deadline.

The Patriot Act “Sunsets” are, primarily, a small group of provisions in Title II of the law. Title II is the main vehicle by which the White House, and Justice Department, made radical changes to Criminal and Intelligence Laws permitting the authorities more power to survey, monitor and investigate Americans with fewer checks on abuse.

This past week, the Senate Intelligence Committee moved for the renewal of the Patriot Act on an 11-4 vote, which would expand the powers of the FBI. This renewal will now go before the full Congress where, this time, it should receive the full benefit of a vigorous debate. The focal point of this debate should be the erosion of the Constitution and the restoring of checks and balances as opposed to the current White Houses assumption of unchecked powers.

The Patriot Act was passed under the heavy cloud of the terrorist attacks which painfully exposed our Nation’s failings in protecting its citizens. In the rush to make the necessary changes to calm and protect a nation, Congress acted in haste without giving full consideration to the impact and significances of what they were doing. The time has come to revisit and reconsider just what they did. Was it really in the interests of the Nation to give unbridled police powers to a few politicians? Was, or is, it in the best interest of the Nation? Our Senators and Representatives should reevaluate and look at the issues and problematic position that they have created viz a viz our Constitution, Our Bill of Rights, and the danger that exists in creating a virtual police state in our nation.

We have already seen some of the problems raised with some of these issues such as unlimited detention without charges being brought forth, the lack of representation, the ability of the law enforcement to conduct searches, wiretapping without warrant or cause, to name a few.

In the Hispanic community we have seen raids conducted in the work place in the name of terrorist threat such as those during the Super Bowl. We have seen a rise in the xenophobic attitudes and actions taken on the US/Mexican border in the name of terrorists, despite the fact that it has been documented the 9/11 terrorist used the Canadian/US border to enter the United States.

The Congress needs to ensure that its citizens are protected, but they need to balance these actions within the framework of the Constitution. Once we start degrading the greatest document in the world we could begin a slippery descent to tyranny.

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