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Patriot Act Besieged -- A Justice Department honcho confesses: 'We 
are losing the fight for the Patriot Act'


http://www.villagevoice.com/hentoff/


http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0422/hentoff.php  


nation

Liberty Beat
by Nat Hentoff
Patriot Act Besieged
A Justice Department honcho confesses: 'We are losing the fight for 
the Patriot Act'
May 28th, 2004 1:00 PM 


Attorney General Ashcroft confronted by the people rising
(check out image: from video, www.whitehouse.gov) 



The objective of the Patriot Act [is to make] the population visible 
and the Justice Department invisible. The Act inverts the 
constitutional requirement that people's lives be private and the 
work of government officials be public; it instead crafts a set of 
conditions that make our inner lives transparent and the workings of 
government opaque. - Elaine Scarry, "Acts of Resistance," Harper's 
Magazine, May 2004 



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The Patriot Act makes it able for those of us in positions of 
responsibility to defend the liberty of the American people. - George 
W. Bush , quoted by the National Committee Against Repressive 
Legislation, May 2004 



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In March, at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, I 
debated Chuck Rosenberg, chief of staff to James Comey, John 
Ashcroft's second-in-command at the Justice Department. A former 
counsel to FBI director Robert Mueller, Rosenberg, a former 
prosecutor, has specialized in counterintelligence and 
counterterrorism. 

The next day, the headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story on 
the debate (March 22) was "Ashcroft Staffer Admits Patriot Act Is 
Unpopular." And Chuck Rosenberg was quoted in the story: "We're 
losing this fight." 

The reporter, Doug Moore, told me Rosenberg had made that admission 
during the intermission in our debate. It wasn't my eloquence that 
deflated Rosenberg, but rather my focus that afternoon on the 
insistent resistance to the Patriot Act around the countryâ€"and in 
Congress. 

By May, 311 towns and citiesâ€"and four state legislatures (Alaska, 
Hawaii, Vermont, and Maine)â€"had passed Bill of Rights resolutions 
instructing the members of Congress from those areas to roll back the 
most egregiously repressive sections of the Patriot Act, subsequent 
executive orders, and other extensions of the act. 

According to Nancy Talanian, director of the Bill of Rights Defense 
Committee in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the primary organizer 
and coordinator of this campaign to preserve the 
Constitution, "Hundreds more communities and states are considering 
resolutions. Last December, the National League of Cities approved a 
resolution calling for amending the Patriot Act." 

And on May 12, The Hill , a Washington publication that gets inside 
congressional maneuvers, ran a report by Alexander Bolton 
("Presidential Push Fails to Quell GOP Fear of Patriot Act"): "A 
group of libertarian-minded Republicans in Congress is blocking 
President Bush's effort to strengthen domestic counterterrorism laws 
and reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, which the president has made one 
of his top domestic priorities this year." 

Not the whole Patriot Act, but sections of it, come up for 
congressional renewal by December 2005. Bush is pressing hard for 
Congress to renew those parts now. Standing in his way, however, is 
Republican conservative James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House 
Judiciary Committee. According to The Hill: "Sensenbrenner has made 
it clear to colleagues that he will not consider reauthorization of 
the bill until next year." 

On April 20, Wired News ( wired.com ) quoted constitutional law 
professor David Cole, of the Georgetown University Law Center, on the 
resistance to the Patriot Act. Since 9-11, Cole has been the Samuel 
Adams of our time, a one-man version of the pre-Revolution committees 
of correspondence. Said Cole: 

"One year after 9/11, National Public Radio did a poll and found that 
only 7 percent of Americans felt they had given up important 
liberties in the war on terrorism. Two years after 9/11, NBC or CBS 
did a very similar poll and they found that now 52 percent of 
Americans report being concerned that their civil liberties are being 
infringed by the Bush administration's war on terrorism. That's a 
huge shift." 

And on April 14, in Salt Lake City, when the Senate Judiciary 
Committee chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, came home to harvest 
support for the Patriot Act, among his fiercest critics was Scott 
Bradley of the Utah Branch of the ultra-conservative EagleForum. 
Bradley reminded Hatchâ€"Ashcroft's premier cheerleader in 
Congressâ€"of a prediction by Osama bin Laden in a BBC interview 
after 9-11. The arch-terrorist said: 

"The battle has moved to inside America. . . . Freedom and human 
rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the 
American people and the West in general into an unbearable hell and 
choking fire." 

Scott Bradley went on to tell Hatch: "The United States is stronger 
and braver than that," but "we must make absolutely certain that the 
rush for security does not . . . destroy what we really cherish about 
this great nation." 

Then, this libertarian conservative confronted Orrin Hatch with a 
grave warning by James Madison in 1788: 

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom 
of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power 
than by violent and sudden usurpations." 

The next day, as if to confirm Madison's prophecy, the Associated 
Press reported, "The number of secret surveillance warrants sought by 
the FBI has increased by 85 percent in the last three years, a pace 
that has outstripped the Justice Department's ability to quickly 
process them." 

They'll process these warrants, which are authorized by the secret 
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the AP notes, for "wiretaps, 
video surveillance, property search and other spying on people 
believed to be terrorists or spies." And we'll never know if our 
records are being included in the databases. These are secret 
searches. 





Que le vaya bien
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