Sunday, August 13, 2006

Archived: Why we need the Patriot Act

Here is a column I wrote for the North Carolina Conservative back in July of 2005.
With the continued threats of terrorism like we saw last week I think it still applies.

Why we need the Patriot Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee had a late night last week arguing over various aspects of the Patriot Act until 3 a.m. The debate finally ended with a compromise bill that was then passed by the House of Representatives 257 approval, 171 disapproval. Most voting against it were Democrats a slim few were Republicans. The bill still has to be debated by the full Senate. The bill extends permanently all but two of the provisions of the Act. These two will need to be reviewed -- 10 years from now; which they then could be made permanent. The House and Senate versions differ on this and that point, but the principles being discussed are pretty much the same and have to do with what it is we are willing to forfeit in order to advance our security, or seek to advance it.

Now most conservatives that oppose the Patriot Act do so because they believe we are giving up freedom in order to have security. It was Benjamin Franklin who said those who give up freedom in order to have security deserve neither freedom or security. Ben was absolutely right then, but does his statement hold true today?

The world was a much different place when Ben Franklin was with us. Our country had the security from attacks on our home land by our fortunate geographic location. Thousands of miles of ocean on each side protected us from attack or invasion up until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Even then it was nearly impossible for a long range bomber to reach us and there was no such thing as long range missiles. Much has changed since then. Today a missile from the other side of the globe could reach Chicago or St. Louis in an hour and a half. Add a chemical or biological warhead on it the results would be devastating. An unlikely scenario but it is possible. A more realistic scenario a nuke suitcase bomb smuggled across the border with the help of organized international gangs or crime.

The argument unfortunately rests, in many cases, on unseen and unpredictable factors. No one can say for sure what lies ahead. But when terrorists have the ability to transmit a lethal communication by cell phone to set off a detonator to a bomb in a trillionth of a second law enforcement must have the tools such as the Patriot Act to gather the intelligence to prevent it.
The Patriot Act allows law enforcement to enlarge the range of suspects. . It allows law enforcement to uncover terrorists from the masses and stop terrorist attacks.

On July 7 in London it was four British Muslims, indistinguishable to the authorities until that day from a million other British Muslims. Their targets: 56 complete strangers, who did nothing more offensive or conspicuous than to ride in subways and on a bus.

The Patriot Act has stopped similar attacks from happening here. A terrorist cell’s plan in New York to set bombs on the Brooklyn bridge was uncovered. What about the terrorist training camp uncovered in California. This is just a small list but may not have been discovered until it was too late without the Patriot Act.
Progress begins by pooling intelligence information, and that is the major contribution of the Patriot Act. Before the Patriot Act material that was of the FBI wasn’t compared with material that was of the CIA.

Others who oppose the Patriot Act do so because they say civil liberties are being violated. They feel that it infringes on their rights to privacy and free speech. They are reluctant to permit the government to inform itself to business and library records and to conduct roving wiretaps. The distribution of funds, the people you visit, the books you read and the e-mails you dispatch?
Why is the government so interested in all of this? Why is it necessary to investigate people’s personal lives like this?

Well, I have a feeling they probably aren’t interested that you shop at Wal-Mart or that you just read the latest Harry Potter Book.

Let me give you an idea of what they are looking into and some good reasons why this is necessary.

In March 2003, Eco-radical Craig Rosebraugh, former spokesman for the extremely violent Earth Liberation Front, (who is on the FBI domestic terrorist list) wrote a manifesto sent across the internet calling on fellow leftist to take direct actions against US military establishments, urban centers, corporations, government buildings and media outlets. His plans included:

1) Attack the financial centers of the country. Using covert or black block techniques . . . physically shut down financial centers which regulate and assist the functioning of U.S. economy. This can be done in a variety of ways from massive property destruction, to online sabotage, to physical occupation of buildings.

2) Large scale urban rioting. With massive unrest and even state of emergencies declared in major cities across the country, the U.S. government will be forced to send U.S. troops into the domestic arena thereby taking resources and political focus away from the war.

3) Attack the media centers of the country. . . . Using any means necessary, shut down the national networks of NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, etc. . . .

4) Spread the battle to the individuals responsible for the war and destruction of life -- the very heads of government and U.S. corporations. No longer should these people be able to hide behind their occupations, living their lives in peace while they simultaneously slaughter countless people. Hit them in their personal lives, visit their homes, and make them feel personally responsible for committing massive atrocities.

5) Make it known publicly that this movement DOES NOT support U.S. troops as long as they are serving an unjust and horrifying political regime. Create an atmosphere lacking of support to assist U.S. troops at home and abroad in losing their morale and will to fight.

6) Actively target U.S. military establishments within the United States . . . use any means necessary to slow down the functioning of the murdering body.

In April 2003, A group of peace activist called Direct Action to Stop the War set up a blockade at an Oakland port . The primary target was to stop American President Lines, a longtime carrier of military cargo. APL made 9 vessels available to the department of defense to move ammunition, food, and supplies to US troops fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The anti-war obstructionists weren't exercising their "free speech." They blocked trucks, employees, entryways and streets in order to stop the shipment of things like bullets, rations, lubricants, medical supplies, repair parts and chemical defense equipment to our troops. They also targeted Stevedoring Services of America, which handled some 3 million tons of humanitarian aid.

In January 2005, the anti-war extremists of Code Pink traveled to the Jordan-Iraq border and doled out $600,000 in aid to "the other side."

In February 2005, civil rights attorney and leftist Lynne Stewart was convicted on five counts of conspiring to aid Islamic terrorists and lying to the government about smuggling messages from her jailed client, terrorist mastermind Shiekh Omar Abdel Rahman, to his followers in Egypt.

In June 2005, Professor Ward Churchill suggested to a Portland audience that killing military officers with explosive devices was a more effective anti-war tactic than conscientious objection. "Fragging an officer has a much more impactful effect," Churchill advised.

We are fighting an enemy within just as determined to destroy our country as the terrorist abroad. It is law enforcements job to take these threats to our domestic security just as seriously as they take terrorist threats. We must provide them with the ability to investigate these threats and stop them before they become catastrophic.

I understand if the Patriot Act is abused it could put some freedoms and liberties in jeopardy. That is why I believe there should be sunset provisions set. When the threat is gone the Patriot Act should be gone. Until then what other alternative is there? Hasn’t tolerating the civil liberties of terrorist taken and threatened enough lives already.

Also read this one from the MTCW archives: Civil Rights vs. National Security written Jan 23 2006

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