Tuesday, members of Congress voted on whether to extend or revise three highly controversial sections of the infamous Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, or the USA PATRIOT ACT. House Republicans pushed a bill that would extend the expiring sections â€” 215, 206 and 6001â€“â€“ by using an expedited procedure that allows for just 40 minutes of debate.
Fortunately, they failed to reach the two-thirds majority vote required for the bill to pass. Within the next few days the Republican proposed bill will be voted on once more, this time via standard methods of deliberation. It is likely that the bill will pass before the Feb. 28 expiration date, thereby preserving the Patriot Act.
Congressman Cory Gardner, of the 4th Congressional District of Colorado, voted in favor of the extension bill and against liberty. Is this who we want to represent our interests in Congress?
On Oct. 26, 2001, just six weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, President George W. Bush signed into law the Patriot Act. The legislation has a sunset provision that terminates or repeals parts of the act. Due to votes to renew the sections in 2006 and perhaps again in 2011, the sun is still high in the sky as the Patriot Act continues to â€œprotect us from our freedomsâ€ by infringing upon every citizenâ€™s right to privacy.
The 342-page bill profoundly reduces restrictions on law enforcement and intelligence gathering. It grants government the ability to search e-mails, telephone conversations, medical records and financial records, allows for the Secretary of the Treasury to monitor transactions and allows law enforcement to detain any individual who appears to be involved in planning or initiating terror.
Section 215, aka the â€œlibrary recordsâ€ provision, allows the government to obtain â€œany tangible thingâ€ deemed (by law enforcement) relevant to a terrorism investigation, without having to prove to a judge the â€œthingâ€™sâ€ relevance to the investigation. It got its nickname because it allows government to collect records of library checkouts or books purchased by anyone. Under 215, the FBI may search or survey any ordinary U.S. citizen without evidence of warranted suspicion.
Section 206, the â€œroving John Doe wiretapâ€ provision, permits government to use intelligence surveillance to listen to telephone conversations, read emails etc., without having to specify who and why it wishes to search.
Section 6001 permits secret intelligence to use surveillance on any â€œnon-U.S.â€ persons without having to produce evidence of probable cause.
Sections 215, 205 and 6001 of the Patriot Act blatantly violate the Bill of Rights.
Instead of protecting the U.S. and freedom, the Patriot Act nullifies at least six amendments of the Bill of Rights, thereby making citizens less free. The freedom to speak against the government has become a means of self-incrimination. The purchase of nail polish remover in excess may now render you a terror suspect. And the rights to unlawful search and seizure and privacy have been abolished.
Uncle Sam has become â€œbig brotherâ€ in the post 9/11 Orwellian America. Surveillance is the first step toward a totalitarian government that only allows ideals that reinforce its power.
â€œThose who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,â€ said Benjamin Franklin.
Government spends $80 billion annually on increasing security, but at what cost? The Patriot Act violates liberty and allows government to tear apart the very document it claims to honor and protect; therefore Congress must allow the Patriot Act to expire in order to restore liberty to the people.
Courtney Stuard is a senior journalism major. Her column appears on Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.