Thursday, June 10, 2004

Congress should not renew the PATRIOT Act

Why you're right:

1. Congress doesn't know how the PATRIOT Act is being used. When Congress passed the PATRIOT Act in the days after 9/11 they weren't certain they were making the right decision. To give themselves a chance to reconsider, they made the most controversial provisions expire in 2005. But despite multiple, explicit requests from Congress, John Ashcroft has refused to make even basic disclosures about how many provisions of the PATRIOT Act are being used. Without that information, there is no way that members of Congress can honestly and objectively conclude that the PATRIOT Act should be extended. (Epic Legal Brief, Ashcroft Memo)

2. The PATRIOT Act allows the Justice Department to seize anything without meaningful judicial review. Expiring provisions of the PATRIOT act allow the government to seize anything they want if they decide the object or record would assist in a terrorism investigation. Judges have no authority to reject the request as long as it is submitted in its proper form. (PATRIOT Act, Section 215)

3. The PATRIOT Act permits secret wiretaps of people with no connection to terrorism or any other crime. Expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act make it possible for the government to secretly wiretap someone's phone - outside of the standard legal system - even if that person has no connection to terrorism or espionage. John Ashcroft refuses to disclose any information about how this provision is being used. (PATRIOT Act, Section 214)

Why they're wrong:

Supporters of extending the PATRIOT Act argue that we need to give the government every tool possible to prevent terrorism. But the PATRIOT act doesn't make use safer it puts us at risk.

1. The PATRIOT Act puts us at risk because it wastes resources. The PATRIOT Act allows extensive and expensive investigations to take place with little or no evidence of wrong doing. That means the government can waste money pursuing a hunch or advancing a political agenda. As a result, when evidence of wrongdoing does emerge there are less resources available to pursue it.

2. The PATRIOT Act puts us at risk by damaging relationships. By removing most evidentiary requirements, The PATRIOT Act facilitates the targeting of innocent Arabs and Muslims. By creating a culture of distrust, it damages the ability of the government to work cooperatively with those communities to prevent terrorism.