An Unpatriotic Act
|By Mark Gowan
||March 17, 2004
There are striking similarities between government and business but the business of government is not only about economics, profit and product. It is about power.
The Bush administration has the economic advantage over its nearest presidential competition by literally millions of dollars and is now taking governmental liberties to heights that have not been seen in this country since the so-called McCarthy Witch-hunts. The Bush administration is now setting its sights on power and this is where those long-loved phrases such as “freedom of speech” and “right to privacy” are in danger of being displaced. Power, in business as well as politics is either having the ability to spend and hence make more money or having an advantage over the competition through secrecy. Not only is this administration one of the most secretive of governments that this country has had in years but it seems have very little concern for the privacy and civil liberties of its citizens. The Patriot Act, headed by John Poindexter of the Contra/Iran years and Mr. John Ashcroft our Attorney General, contains in it some of the most odious and detestable ideas that this administration has come up with yet. The first Patriot Act did not float so now it has passed as the Patriot Act II.
The Patriot Act II is seemingly fashioned after other Acts of our government, two long since forgotten by most, namely the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Others include the Japanese containment camps of the WWII era and the before mentioned Communist scares of the fifties. The Espionage Act allowed the Postmaster General Albert Sidney Burleson to censure the flow of mail and the Sedition Act of the following year strengthened the abilities of the Espionage Act by making illegal “any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy,” It also included provisions concerned with the language of the populace related to the U.S. government particularly any language that brought it “into contempt, scorn…or disrepute.”
The Patriot Act, under Attorney General John Ashcroft, takes the idea of secrecy and governmental powers and demolishes civil liberties, personal freedoms and the rights to privacy of the American public. It enables the Treasury Department to require financial institutions and businesses to report transactions that seem to be suspicious. The Patriot Act also makes changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA. The expanded procurement of power by FISA allows the FBI to check business and educational records without being sure that the target is a suspect in any way. The Patriot Act allows access to the confidential records of American citizens even if there is no basis for that access whatsoever. In fact the Patriot Act allows for surveillance based on suspicion “not equivalent to traditional criminal standard of probable cause.” clandestine physical searches that can continue for up to fifteen days without warrant or cause, and according to its provisions it would enable law enforcement to track Internet usage and gather confidential financial records of citizens and legal aliens based solely on suspicion alone. Of course these changes in the ability of the Federal government to gain the power of knowledge over its citizens is based on the nefarious acts of September 11 and continue under the auspice of this country being in “a state of war” but for how long? When is this so-called “war on terrorism” going to come to an end and more importantly when, if ever, are these provisions that allow the federal government to quell civil liberties going to be lifted.
Under the newly updated Patriot Act deemed the Patriot Act II (the full name being “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”) the Bush administration proposes to give itself a few more rights to prod into our privacy. For one, Americans could have their citizenship revoked if the powers that be decide that the have given “material support” to any organization deemed to be “terrorist”. Of course, legal permanent residents could be sent packing instantaneously, without a criminal charge or evidence of any kind if Mr. Ashcroft decides they may be a threat to national security. They get no day in court just a one-way ticket out. Under the proposed umbrella of Patriot II a gargantuan database of citizen DNA information could be collected without a court order, under suspicion of wrongdoing by a law enforcement officer. Among those governmental goodies would come other options such as wiretaps for up to fifteen days without obtaining any kind of warrant, secret arrests, immunity for businesses that turn in suspected wrong-doers, immunity for police officers carrying out illegal searches, and the right for foreign countries to spy on American citizens using our very own government as the go-between.
We are faced with the possibility of another four years of Bush-style despotism and with it the dangers of losing our most valued freedoms, those that we are so accustomed to that we are very nearly not aware of them at all. This is not the time to sit comfortably back and justify our inaction with ranting at the television set or our spouse. Although the bureaucracy of government is slow moving, it is moving and in a direction that is detrimental to freedoms that we have always taken for granted. To accept such tripe as the patriot acts I and II, the “faith-based organizations” bureau of the federal government is to accept the lid of the coffin being nailed down over the real American patriotic spirit of freedom for individuals and their privacy.
The Bush administration is indeed in business but that business is not necessarily what is good for the American people! In fact, business as usual to the Bush administration evidently means clamming up and smiling while running away with our civil liberties and freedoms. We will be left standing with our accounts emptied and no one to turn to if we continue to let our hard-won liberties be taken away from us. We have as a people grown and broadened our perspectives and it has had its cost but it will cost much, much more to lose the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy today to those that cannot seem to grasp the importance of the freedoms and liberties that we hold in the palm of our hands. It is a question of what is important. According to Thomas Paine, one of our founding fathers, “To not ask questions is unpatriotic.” What is important now is for us all to ask questions and demand answers. It is the future of freedom and liberty in this country that is at stake now and that future is indefinite.
Copyright © 2004 by Mark Gowan