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Patriot Act...necessary or overboard?Posted Monday, July 16, 2007, at 8:29 AM
Some 45 days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress, with very minimal debate passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Aimed at increasing powers for law enforcement officials to help pre-empt terrorists, the law opened up a number of private records to government viewing.
I'm only going to list a couple here.
First, the Patriot Act expanded the government's use of wiretaps. Prior to 2001, getting a wiretap required a judge's approval. Now, this can be done based on any suspicion. On the face this sounds fine, and I was all for it back in the day, don't misunderstand me.
The problem is that the reason the courts were meant to be involved in this process is as a system of checks and balances. A judges involvement was meant as a way to ensure that governmental powers were not being abused. Our founding fathers put many things "on the books" for just that purpose.
That leads right in to the ability to inspect records. The Patriot Act went so in depth in this section that it gives the government the right to view your library card if they so choose. Prior to the Patriot Act's inception, had to show reasonable cause to seek records out, now they need only specify that the order is "for an authorized investigation . . . to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
Renewed on March 9, 2006, dubbed Patriot 2, renewing the original act with a few changes.
I understand the need for law enforcement to have the ability to conduct investigations as they need. Thus far, this has not changed my life. However, when you begin sacrificing liberties for temporary security you open up a slippery slope that I don't want to go down.
I can see the use temporarily, but it seems like regulations have a tendency to increase, not decrease as time goes on and this was simply a major step in that direction.
In times of crisis, for instance when the bill was originally passed, law enforcement needs some extra leniency, but it shouldn't be a permanent thing.
What's your take on this?
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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