Forum: Do you think the Patriot Act should be renewed?

Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: Do you think the Patriot Act should be renewed? Why?

GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: Really in favor of Amitai Etzioni’s bit in Nat’l Interest:

In Defense of the Patriot Act

Many of the commentaries elicited by the tenth anniversary of the Patriot Act are as polarized as other elements of our public discourse. On the one hand, there are those who argue that the threat of terrorism is vastly exaggerated, that fear-mongering is used to deprive Americans of their basic rights, and that terrorists could be dealt with as just another kind of criminal—by the police and civilian courts. Then there are those who maintain that anyone who opposes reasonable security measures is aiding and abetting the enemy and that torture and extraordinary renditions have shown themselves to be vital to aborting major additional attacks on our homeland.

If one moves away from such one-sided, overarching positions, one realizes that we face two major legitimate goals—protecting national security and respecting individual rights—and that neither should trump the other. The tension between them can be worked out. Indeed, this key thesis is reflected in the Fourth Amendment, which holds that there be no unreasonable searches and seizures. That is, the Constitution recognizes that some searches do not violate rights and are fully legitimate. And it provides a criterion for determining which are acceptable: those that a reasonable person will recognize as proper. Needless to say, such recognition changes over time—for instance, after events such as 9/11.

One next examines various new security measures included in the Patriot Act on the basis of their reasonableness rather than condemning or embracing the act wholesale. It contains 161 provisions, only about ten of which have been seriously contested by anybody. Moreover, many of the security measures that have troubled many Americans—including the use of torture, indeterminate detention and extraordinary renditions—are not part of the Patriot Act. True, it was originally enacted in great haste. However, it has since been reviewed and extended several times.
The most important provisions of the Patriot Act seem to meet the criterion of reasonableness.

Phones: Before the Patriot Act was passed, authorities had to obtain a court’s permission to tap a phone, but the warrant had to be “particularized” to a given instrument, reflecting the days when most people had just one phone. Cell phones made this narrow rule obsolete. The Patriot Act changed this requirement to attach warrants to a suspect, rather than to one of his instruments in particular. It merely allowed the law to catch up with technological development.

Libraries: Critics have been outraged by the right of the government to search the computers of public libraries. Actually, the term “library” is not mentioned in the act. The bill authorizes searches of “books, records, papers, documents and other items… to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” Critics singled out libraries because such searches evoked more public outrage than if one referred to the actual wording of the bill. While critics argued that this measure would or could have a chilling effect, this observer, at least, is unaware of credible evidence to support this claim.

Homes: The “sneak and peek” clause has been particularly vilified. The act grants authorities the right to search a home without notifying the owner for a period of days. But how long is enough? Russ Feingold favored seven days; Republicans in the House wanted 180 days. But there was little discussion of the grubby details of conducting such a search. How long does it take to de-encrypt a PC? To translate messages? To find collaborators? Clearly, some delay seems reasonable. This provision was amended in 2005 to detail that notification must be provided within 30 days (unless the facts of the case justify a longer delay, which must be overseen by a court and consists of periods of 90 days).

E-mail: Another reasonable new measure changed search warrants from local to national when dealing with the Internet. E-mail often is stored remotely on the servers of Internet service providers (ISPs). Under old laws, search warrants applied only to the jurisdiction in which the search would take place. This meant that if a suspect in, say, New Jersey had e-mail stored on a server located in, say, Silicon Valley, an agent would have to travel across the country to obtain a warrant to seize the e-mail in the jurisdiction in which the server was located. Under the Patriot Act, judges in districts with jurisdiction over particular crimes are allowed to grant search warrants to seize electronic communications stored outside that judge’s jurisdiction.

There is room for debate about how far we need to go to protect ourselves. However, the fact that there has been no successful attack for ten years—and that those that were attempted in the U.S. (that we know about) were particularly inept—should not lull us into letting our guard down. One cannot ignore that survey after survey shows that there are many millions of people throughout the world (and some right here, at home) who hate our guts and wish us harm.

We need to recall the words of a terrorist who explained: “You need to be lucky all the time; I need to be lucky just once.” And we ought not to confuse the main features of the Patriot Act—which meet the criteria of reasonableness—with other new security measures, measures that have crossed the line that separates what free societies will do to defend themselves and that which they consider repugnant.

We would rather absorb some risk to our security than behave like, well, terrorists.

Don Surber: No. We never needed it nor do we need a Department of Homeland Security. Bush went all liberal kooky after 9-11. Time to roll the laws and the bureaucracy back.

Bookworm Room: I like Don’s pithiness. I’d add only that I prefer a prepared (i.e., armed and educated) citizenry to a dangerously overreaching government.

Laura Rambeau Lee, Right Reason: The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) was passed in reaction to the terrorist attacks in America on 9/11/2001. It was not until 2013, with the leaks to the media by Edward Snowden, that the general populace became aware of the massive amounts of metadata being collected by the National Security Agency on each and every one of us. The PATRIOT Act gave the government too much power and should not be renewed as written.

The USA Freedom Act (H.R. 2048) passed the House by a 338-88 vote this month. It restricts the bulk collection of these massive amounts of calling records (metadata) under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It limits collection to instances where there is “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a “specific selection term” used to request call detail records is associated with international terrorism. The government must use a specific selection term, which represents an “individual, account, or personal device.” This should end the bulk collection of everyone’s phone records and is a move in the right direction to targeting a specific person and communication device; someone deemed to be a person of suspicion with intent to commit acts of terrorism. The House bill also requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court to have more transparency, and puts much needed restrictions on the activities of the NSA.

The primary duty of our federal government is to protect its citizens. The threats from radical Islam, as well as other enemies intent on committing acts of terrorism, are real. The USA Freedom Act is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. It scales back the powers given to the federal government through the USA PATRIOT Act, protecting our liberty and privacy rights while allowing for specific targeting of true threats to our homeland.

The Independent Sentinel: I do think it should be renewed but not in its present form.

They are giving themselves unlimited power.

We should abolish the Department of Homeland Security. An department within the FBI would have been sufficient.

Well, there you have it!

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place". At age 62 I find myself fighting inoperable uterine Cancer and thanks to the man upstairs and the prayers from so many people including many of my readers from AskMarion and JustOneMorePet... I'm beating it. After losing our business because of the economy and factors related to the re-election of President Obama in 2012 followed by 16-mos of job hunting, my architect-trained husband is working as a trucker and has only been home approximately 5-days a month since I was diagnosed, which has made everything more difficult and often lonely... plus funds are tight. Our family medical deductible is 12K per year for two of us; thank you ObamaCare. But thanks to donations from so many of you, we are making ends meet as I go through treatment while taking care of my father-in-law who is suffering from late stage Alzheimer's and my mother-in-law who suffers from RA and onset dementia as well as hearing loss, for which there are no caretaker funds, as I continue the fight here online to inform and help restore our amazing country. And finally I need to thank a core group of family, friends, and readers... all at a distance, who check in with me regularly. Plus, I must thank my furkids who have not left my side through this fight. You can see them at JustOneMorePet.
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5 Responses to Forum: Do you think the Patriot Act should be renewed?

  1. GP Cox says:

    Maybe the question should be – Do you have something to hide?

    • Ask Marion says:

      Or is the question… Are you doing something constitutional or patriotic that the powers that be just don’t like?

      • GP Cox says:

        Today’s war with ISIS isn’t in the Middle East, it’s everywhere. No one does anything about it, because they don’t know what to do. An operative could be your next door neighbor, so where are the friendly front lines? friendly territory? The US is no longer a sanctuary – it’s a TARGET.

    • Ask Marion says:

      Here is an example I just tripped across…

      Steve Quayle:

      Steve I have confirmation from a Ft. Hood (Killeen TX) source regarding certain army personnel being trained for martial law lock down and house to house raids. I have a friend who works in Killeen Texas in a business that many soldiers go to. I have gotten my friend up to speed on the current situation and he has been asking some of the soldiers if they know about JADE HELM 15. Over 80% of the soldiers have no clue about JADE HELM 15. Recently one of the soldiers told my friend he was aware of JADE HELM 15 and had received training connected with it. The soldier talked about going to people’s homes looking for gun owners and food hoarders. My friend asked him who they considered to be a food hoarder. The soldier replied it was anyone who had more than 7 days worth of food on hand would be labeled a food hoarder. Guns and excess food would be confiscated. The soldier also said no more than 8 people would be allowed to live in any 1 home.

      It appears Special Forces Operators are posing as Reliant Electricity sales people. I read where they were operating in a Texas town and one person called the County Sheriff’s Office about suspicious people. He was told they were for the government and to worry about them. The Sheriff’s office also told him he should not have run them off with a shotgun since they work for the government I told my friend at the local gun store about Reliant Electric cover and them being in groups of three. My friend told me there was a group of 3 of them in the gun store a few days back dressed exactly as I described them. Dark blue shorts and light gray pin stripped golf shirts. When they show up they have no paperwork but want to do an electrical audit to see if you are wasting energy and see if they could save you money on your electric bill. A great way to get you to take them all through your home and out buildings.

      With Jesus for Life, Tony

      • GP Cox says:

        IF these operations exist, I am certain they are contingency plans. As I said previously – do you know who the enemy is? No one does. ISIS relies on lost, insecure and impressionable people who are willing to listen to anybody. Personally, I I do not approve of our president’s actions in many matters, but he is not the entire government [despite his own visions of himself.] PS. running people off with a shotgun is rash behavior, uncalled for [against gov’t employees or not.] Calm down, take a deep breath and think rationally.

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