Editor, Daily Nexus,
While Bill Ryder (Daily Nexus, “Patriot Act Is There to Protect Your Rights, Not to Shred Them,” Jan. 15), has not been affected by the Patriot Act, who’s to say this sort of legislation won’t be abused when limitations on civil liberties are accepted as normal?
There’s plenty of documentation that our own country has had a curious history of supporting terrorist regimes for the last 20-30 years. We funded and trained the same people we fought in Afghanistan, including Osama. We supported Hussein and turned a blind eye when he gassed the Kurds in ’88. Not long before 9/11, the U.S. awarded the Taliban a few million as a reward for cutting back on opium production, but in the ’80s, the CIA aided heroine refineries there to fuel civil war. And back around 2000, Dick Cheney’s oil company Halliburton used foreign subsidiaries to do millions of dollars worth in business with Hussein. Will the Patriot Act prevent these misguided decisions in the future?
Secondly, the letter states, “the Patriot Act, I hope, will help dry up the flow of funds to terrorists…” You hope? Well, while you’re hoping it will make a difference, a whole lot of people are going to be subjected to unwarranted searches and seizures, violations of the Fourth Amendment. The act’s wording would make you think that it only targets bad guys, but who isn’t a bad guy? Our government has a long history of grouping political activism with domestic terror. Search for COINTELPRO on Google and you’ll see what I mean.
With the Homeland Security Act comes the Information Awareness Office (www.darpa.mil/iao/), which will create a grand national database of every citizen, eavesdrop on every form of communication in real time and combine every bit of personal data ever collected, including shopping habits, religious preference, magazine subscriptions and even library records. Computers will use this data to pre-empt “asymmetric threats,” a term that can describe any loosely organized group of people. It’s now conceivable that activists trying to organize by phone or by e-mail could be considered threatening to the administration’s agenda. The Patriot Act justifies a full investigation and possibly detainment, with no warrants or judicial oversight inside secret military courts. Who differentiates terrorism from overt political activism?
Our constitution protects our right to dissent and our right to privacy. One cannot preserve freedom and democracy by dismantling them. Is this what Bush meant when he said the terrorists wouldn’t change the American way of life?