Bush's USA-PATRIOT Bandwagon
Richard Forno

7 February 2004
Copyright (c) 2004 by Author.  Permission granted to reproduce with credit.

Original Source:  http://www.infowarrior.org/articles/2004-04.html

In a disturbing policy priority, the first thing President Bush asked for
during his 2004 State of the Union speech was for Congress to make the
controversial yet reassuringly-named "Uniting & Strengthening of American by
Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism"
(USA PATRIOT) Act permanent by removing its sunset provisions.

Clearly, during this election (or "re-election" if you prefer to perpetuate
that myth) year for Mr. Bush, he's making the War on Terror his major
talking point, and for good reason: he's got nothing else positive to show
for his Administration thus far except a poor economy, thousands of American
jobs moving overseas, a poisoned Medicare overhaul, a half-trillion dollar
deficit,  international scorn for controversial foreign policy actions
(including the policy of pre-emption), and the greatest number of unemployed
Americans since Herbert Hoover.  The only thing he and Karl Rove can do is
use the lingering memory of September 11 at home with handpicked audiences
to try and generate emotional public support for his self-proclaimed "strong
leadership" in the War on Terror.  And even that's becoming a burgeoning
albatross given the fruitless search for the prohibited weapons he and
everyone else in his Administration were so confident were in Iraq and a
hair's breath away from being given to religious terrorists. (Interestingly,
everyone is looking at the CIA to blame for faulty intelligence, yet
nobody's examining the neo-con staffed Office of Special Plans at the
Pentagon that provided the customized "intelligence" that "convinced" the
White House that Iraq was an imminent danger to the United States.)

But back to the USA PATRIOT Act.  In the two weeks since Bush's lukewarm
State of the Union, he's made repeated calls to make the law permanent. This
is a direct affront to the desires of many states, cities, and counties that
have passed laws, resolutions, and directives  prohibiting public employees
in such jurisdictions from supporting federal investigations under the Act
while reaffirming the Constitutional rights of its citizens. Given these
increasing grassroots challenges to this law from all corners of the country
and American society, one would think the Administration might take the hint
that Americans do not feel comfortable living in the land of the
sneak-and-peek surveillance, no-notice search warrants, prolonged (and
circumstantial) detentions, and law enforcement monitoring what Americans
buy and read, among the Act's other disturbing provisions sold to the public
as necessary to fight the "war on terror" and "protect the homeland." 
Indeed, the Administration has used the memory (or mere mention) of
September 11 to push through any number of questionable  policies, with the
feel-good titled USA PATRIOT Act being perhaps the most controversial and
sinister of them here at home.

That being said, the public also forgets that although USA PATRIOT is still
heralded as a "tool" for law enforcement to fight terrorism, it was used (or
abused) repeatedly for non-terror-related criminal investigations, according
to a Department of Justice inspector general released last year.  Therefore,
as a patriotic American, it's my duty to alert my fellow concerned
countrymen to this clear and present danger to American liberties that, as
evidenced in the State of the Union, is a declared priority for the Bush
Administration during 2004.   Congress and the American people were fooled
into supporting the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act back in 2001 -- and must
not allow their emotions or ignorance to keep this controversial,
anti-American law alive.

Notwithstanding the above, the Administration is making a full-court press
in support of the USA PATRIOT Act, as evidenced on the White House website:

January 20 (State of the Union): "...Inside the United States, where the war
began, we must continue to give our homeland security and law enforcement
personnel every tool they need to defend us. And one of those essential
tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better
share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize
their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers
and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they
are even more important for hunting terrorists. (Applause.) Key provisions
of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. (Applause.) The terrorist
threat will not expire on that schedule. (Applause.) Our law enforcement
needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the
Patriot Act. (Applause.) "

January 21 (President Discusses Job Training and the Economy in Ohio): "...I
see local officers here. It is very important that we provide law
enforcement with the tools necessary to fight and win this war. I called for
the renewal of the Patriot Act. I want to tell you why. It is important that
we be able to share information at the federal level. It's important we have
the authority to be able to seize assets. These tools in the Patriot Act,
most of the tools we have been using for years against embezzlers or
criminals. We're at war. It seems like to me it is logical that we apply
tools that we've used to catch embezzlers to be able to catch terrorists.
The Congress needs to renew the Patriot Act so we can win the war on terror
and secure the homeland. (Applause.)"

January 22 (Vice-President Discussing GOP Policy at the CPAC Annual Meeting
in DC): "...Inside our country, where the war began, we must continue to
give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to
defend us. And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which
authorizes federal law enforcement to share more intelligence information,
to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize their assets. We
use these very same tools to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers and
organized crime, and we need them to hunt terrorists, as well. As the
President said the other night, parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire
next year, but the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our
law enforcement needs the Patriot Act, and Congress needs to renew it.

January 22 (President Discusses Americašs Leadership in Global War on Terror
in NM): "...I think it's very important for the country to understand the
Patriot Act. See, that's an important part of fighting the war on terror.
It's essential that the FBI and the CIA be able to share information if you
want to whip the terrorists. See, it's a different kind of war. We're in a
different era. We need to view law differently. We'll always protect our
Constitution and safeguard individual rights, but our law enforcement, those
who collect information and share information and expected to act on
information, must be able to talk together...Many of the tools in the
Patriot Act have been used by law enforcement to chase down embezzlers and
criminals. It is essential that those same tools be used in fighting against
terrorists. We're in a different era. The Patriot Act is going to expire.
The Congress needs to renew it, for the sake of fighting the war on terror.

January 23 (President Speaks to US Conference of Mayors Meeting in DC): "...
I know there's some talk in your communities about the Patriot Act. Let me
tell you about the Patriot Act right quick. We're in a new war, a different
kind of war. We need to be able to share information across jurisdictional
boundaries at the federal level. Do you realize, prior to September the
11th, 2001, the CIA could not pass information to the FBI, or vice versa? By
law, they were prohibited from sharing information. How can you fight a war
against terrorists who hide in dark corners of the world and maybe slide
into our country if you can't share information? We need the CIA and the FBI
to be able to talk to each other. (Applause.)...As I said in the State of
the Union, many of the provisions in the law have been used to catch
embezzlers or criminals. We need to make sure those provisions stay in the
law. We're at war. We're trying to hunt terrorists. It's a different kind of
war....In the old days, you know, you could measure progress based upon
tanks destroyed or airplanes brought down to earth, you know, by missiles or
air-to-air combat. It's no longer the way it is in the 21st century. We're
on an international manhunt. We have to find these people before they come
and get us. And in order to do so, we need the best intelligence and the
capacity to share that intelligence across jurisdictional boundaries. The
Patriot Act is vital for our security, and Congress needs to renew it.
(Applause.) "

February 5 (President Speaks on Seaport and Cargo Security in SC): "...
Another vital tool in the homeland security is for Congress to pass laws
that enable us to do our job. I'm referring to the Patriot Act. The Patriot
Act gives federal law enforcement the tools they need to seize terrorists'
assets and disrupt their cells. (Applause.) It removes -- the Patriot Act
removed legal barriers that prevented the FBI and the CIA from sharing
information, information that is vitally needed to uncover terrorist plots
before they are carried out in America. Imagine a system that would not
allow people to collect information to share information. It makes it
awfully hard to protect the homeland if the FBI and the CIA can't share data
in order to protect us. The Patriot Act made that possible....The Patriot
Act imposes tougher penalties on terrorists and their supporters. We want to
send a clear message to people, that there will be a consequence. For years
we've used similar provisions, provisions that are now in the act, to catch
embezzlers and drug traffickers. What's in the Patriot Act today is nothing
new; we've been using these provisions in the past. If the methods are good
enough for hunting criminals, they're even more important for hunting
terrorists. The Congress needs to extend the Patriot Act. (Applause.)"

This is a summary of White House remarks on the Act since the January 20
State of the Union speech. Unfortunately, it's quite likely that we'll see
many more such calls, requests, and pleas -- to sympathetic audiences,
naturally -- from the Administration on this topic in the coming weeks and
months. We must counter the patriotic rhetoric and spin of Administration
flacks like Attorney General John Ashcroft who constantly claim that the Act
is to "defend" patriotic American ideals like "freedom" and "liberty"
against "the terrorists" -- they  only serve to distract public attention
from the Act's adverse impact on America's cherished civil liberties by
fostering a continuing environment of fear that can be tapped into during
speeches calling for the USA PATRIOT Act to be made permanent.

This article is a call for action and a request for you good readers to get
the word out in your communities about this rapidly approaching point of no
return for American civil liberties.  Work with the American Civil Liberties
Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other organizations to help
educate fellow Americans about the dangers of making the USA PATRIOT Act
permanent.  Terrorism is indeed a danger to the world, but invoking the
memory of September 11 (and wrapping it in an American flag) to achieve what
is clearly a partisan political objective and an un-American (and
easily-abused) national policy is unethical, unpatriotic, and dishonors the
memory of those who perished that day.

In other words, it's business as usual for the Bush Administration.

# # # # #

Richard Forno is a Washington, DC-based security consultant and author of
"Weapons of Mass Delusion." His home in cyberspace is at

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