Someone is Watching Over You

Darlene Mariani

What books have you checked out lately? What websites have you visited? What have you ordered online? Who have you spoken to on the phone? Do you think this doesn’t matter to anyone? It matters to the government, and as a result of the USA Patriot Act, they could be monitoring your every move.
Over two hundred cities and three entire states regard the Patriot Act as a violation of basic civil rights.
The Patriot Act gives law enforcement agencies and the government the authority to access personal, medical, financial, library and educational records once private without judicial oversight. It also allows the government to detain non-citizens suspected of being terrorists.

The Patriot Act also gives the government power to monitor religious or political institutions without probable cause. The government has closed once-public immigration hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges and encourages bureaucracies to resist public records requests. It allows prosecution of librarians or record keepers if they reveal the government has subpoenaed information. It gives permission to deny legal representation to Americans accused of crimes.

In simpler terms, this means the government can search your home with no probable cause without telling you. They can then take away your property without a reason or a hearing. They can monitor your e-mails and Web site visits, track what books you take out at the library and use that as evidence to detain you in prison. Americans can be jailed without charges, indefinitely, without a trial through this act.

Section 215 states that the government need not show probable cause or have reasonable grounds for an authorized investigation. It vastly expands the government’s power to spy on regular people living in America. Subjects of such investigations are not notified their privacy is being violated.
This increased power does not provide enough security to rationalize the rights that have been taken away. The act crushes the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth amendments.

Real patriotism means that you uphold the Constitution, you care about your country and your rights. Just because you hide behind a flag doesn’t mean you are a patriot, especially when you don’t know anything about the flag, or the Constitution or even how the flag got there or who the current president is, said Ahmad Bedier of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Out of every 10 people, four believe we should have less freedom of speech. They think free speech is dangerous, when free speech is one of the only things keeping our rights intact. Getting rid of free speech is what’s really frightening and dangerous.

This is not the first time the government has tightened the reigns on civil liberties. This often happens during times of war and crisis. The most extreme example, of course, is the internment of more than 20,000 Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After Sept. 11th, 1,000 Muslim men were detained. However, not one indictment has come out of those detainments, according to Dick Kurtenbach, executive director for Kansas and Western Missouri of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This act is being abused more and more as time goes on. While meant to protect the country from terrorist attacks, the government is now using The Patriot Act to investigate regular citizens involved in domestic crimes, or no crimes at all. The Patriot Act allows investigators to obtain international bank information on people suspected of having terrorist ties or laundering money. The goal of this act was to track down terrorists and keep another Sept. 11th from happening. It was not intended to be used to track normal citizens, politically vested or not. But that appears to be what has happened.

The Patriot Act was passed practically unanimously, with only one vote against it, in the weeks following the September attacks. It is clear this country was shaken and scared. The people wanted, and maybe needed, the government to take a strong hold, to lead them out of the catastrophe. Even I was behind Bush when he gave that first, “Let’s get ‘em!” speech. However, this piece of legislation abused our trust. The government swept it under the rug while our eyes were turned toward Afghanistan. Many people will contend the act is basically thoughtless and reactionary. On the other hand, the bill is over 300 pages long. Perhaps someone up there had plans for this before the attacks even took place. Who can say for sure?

Democracy should be based on a system of checks and balances, ensuring the safety and the rights of every citizen and resident. Our system cannot and will not survive on the government’s “good intentions.” Benjamin Franklin once said, “They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I couldn’t agree more.


Published Friday, November 7th, 2003 - 06:28am GMT

Article courtesy of the Connecticut Daily Campus

This is the print-ready version of Someone is Watching Over You

Darlene Mariani



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