USA Patriot Act is anti-American | VailDaily.com
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USA Patriot Act is anti-American

Tom Boyd

Each town council in Eagle County should take a symbolic stand against the USA Patriot Act, an unconstitutional set of new laws that debases the Bill of Rights and is quickly transforming America into a police state.The U.S. has (once again) become a place where the federal government is spying on its people and imprisoning suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.But this time around, it’s completely legal.When the USA Patriot act was signed into law on Oct. 26, 2001, by President George W. Bush, the nation was led to believe that Attorney General John Ashcroft and the feds were going to be given new powers designed to catch and detain terrorists.But only six months after the Patriot Act was signed into law, federal agents were being taught how to apply the anti-terrorist laws to ordinary criminals, according to an Associated Press news report.Since that time there have been numerous examples of how the Patriot Act has been applied to ordinary criminals. A man in North Carolina, for example, was charged with “Intent to Use a Weapon of Mass Destruction” after a homemade pipe bomb exploded in his lap.Representative Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, wants to broaden the classification of the term “terrorist,” making it easier for law enforcement officials to capture and detain people who are suspected of crimes like vandalism and destruction of property.Can anybody say McCarthy?The parallels between the anti-Communist witch hunts of the Cold War and the current War on Terror are dismally similar. The United States seemed to be making progress on the freedom front in 1974, when Congress adopted laws intended to further prohibit the ongoing, and illegal, monitoring of its citizenry perpetrated by J. Edgar Hoover and his G-men. The laws were brought into effect after the discovery of the COINTELPRO papers, which revealed that the FBI and other federal agencies were conducting illegal domestic espionage against American citizens.Now the feds are back at it, but this time with the consent of Congress and the executive branch.It may be easy for some of the folks in this valley to dismiss these statements as paranoid rhetoric. After all, our lives seem pretty good. Things seem fine around here. And the important thing is to avoid breaking the law that way the feds won’t bother with us, right?Wrong.Under the USA Patriot Act (which passed in the Senate 96-1 on Oct. 11, 2001, and the House 337-79 the following day before the president signed it Oct. 26), law enforcement officials don’t even need to announce their reasons for holding a person (even U.S. citizens) in jail, incommunicado, without legal counsel.Section 215 of the Act allows the FBI to seize records without a search warrant, obtain information about a person’s reading habits, religious affiliations and Internet use, and impose a “gag order” on those served with Section 215 orders.Armed with the kind of evidence that was formerly illegal in this country, the feds can lock us up and throw away the key. No phone call. No rights. No lawyer. Nothing.Somehow that’s not enough. Ashcroft is currently asking for increased power from Congress, and guys like Colorado’s very own Rep. McInnis are supporting current efforts to expand the definition of “terrorist” to include anybody with a firecracker and an anger management problem. Makers of Methamphetamine drugs (which can be produced using household cleaning products) are being held and locked away under the charge of producing chemical weapons.My question is this: where was this law when farmers were spreading DDT all over the place? And what about the American companies that still sell domestically outlawed chemicals abroad? Can we charge them with terrorism, too?Hundreds of cities and the state of Hawaii have condemned the Patriot Act, in some cases levying small fines on librarians and other officials who comply with federal demands. Although federal laws overpower our own, it’s imperative for local representatives to speak up on our behalf. Law-abiding citizens need to inform the government that this will not stand. It flies in the face of everything this nation claims to be and people inside and outside of our borders are disgusted with the way the current government is treating its own people.Tom Boyd’s can be reached at tboyd@vailtrail.com or (970) 390-1585.


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