I had the most bizarre dream the other night. I dreamt that the East German Special Police from the 1950s were enforcing the Patriot Act. It was one of those dreams that, after I awoke, felt like it really happened.
The Stasi, as they were called, had one agent for every 166 Germans. They employed tactics that focused on disruption of the families’ private lives. Their theory was that harassment caused less active resistance. They also believed that spying on their own people kept the East Germans safe. Think about that for a minute.
President Obama signed three provisions of the Patriot Act in 2011 for a four-year extension. Those provisions are roving wiretaps, searching of business records and surveillance of “lone wolves” – individuals suspected of terrorist related activities but not related to terrorist groups. Basically, if the government thinks you’re a bad guy then it reserves the right to bypass your rights and spy on you as well as harass you.
Other things in the Act that have been extended include law enforcement officials searching your home without your knowledge. How would you like to come home and find your house wrecked? You think someone broke in and then you find out it was your own government who was checking on you and your activities. Is that the America our Founding Fathers dreamt of?
The F.B.I. can search your email, phone records, and financial records without a court order, thereby denying you of your constitutional right of due process. Since President Obama graciously signed the extensions, without putting much thought into their repercussions, many federal courts have begun deeming the provisions unconstitutional.
September 11, 2001 is over. It happened and it was a tragedy. I had two friends that died in the attack. But that doesn’t mean we need to overreact by pulling the rug out from underneath our feet of liberty. It’s wrong just like the Stasi were wrong in their tactics. You think we’d learn from history. What’s next, bringing back the inquisition?
U.S. Senator Mark Begich is against the Patriot Act altogether. Senator Lisa Murkowski, on the other hand, voted “yes” on extending the Act. She also voted “yes” on a constitutional ban of same sex marriage and believes that we should not regulate green house gases. She voted “no” on the United States reducing its dependency on oil by 40 percent by 2025. Let’s remember that this is Alaska, but also remember that it’s big oil that funds Murkowski’s campaigns for re-election. Senator Murkowski voted “yes” on re-authorizing the Patriot Act wiretap provisions. That could be any one of us with no knowledge that it’s occurring. No due process and no evidence. Just a simple accusation will do. Do you feel like you’re in East Berlin yet? How about the Salem witch trials?
Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The Patriot act states that the government may search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigations.
Let’s look at one more example since we’re having so much fun.
Amendment VI of the United States Constitution states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
What seems to be an offshoot of the Patriot Act is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into United States law on December 31, 2011, which allows the government to jail Americans indefinitely without a trial. How would you like to go to jail without ever having your day in court to defend yourself? Better yet, the government doesn’t have to prove you’re guilty. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
What I really love is how the Patriot Act states that the government may monitor conversations between attorneys and clients in federal prisons and deny lawyers to Americans accused of terrorist crimes. Wow. How’s that for a zinger? Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse. Now, you can’t even talk to your attorney in confidence, if you’re even allowed one.
Since Sept. 11, 2001 have you heard of another big terrorist attack in this country? Senator Murkowski would argue that it’s because of the Patriot Act and reserving the right to spy on anyone for anything as the reason why we have caught terror plots before they’ve hatched. I think that’s a typical political catch 22. We’d never know if it works unless we get rid of it, but something bad might happen if we do. Then again, we didn’t have the Patriot Act around until recently and things were pretty much the same.
We don’t need to be like the Stasi of the 1950s through the early 90s. We don’t need to infiltrate and spy just to make sure everyone is falling in line and not making trouble. That’s not what this country is about.
Our forefathers spent a lot of time and consideration in putting together our Constitution. They chose their words carefully while taking into account the tyranny that they were escaping from in order to create a new republic. It’s a republic that doesn’t have the right to throw you away without due process and a republic that values its citizens and has to prove that they’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not a country where we say, “I think he’s a terrorist. I saw him buying fireworks and he looks weird. Let’s put him away and deny him his day in court. Oh, yeah, make sure he doesn’t get an attorney either.”
Has our country gone backwards in a time machine and landed in East Germany? I sure hope not. I never took a German class. I did get a “B” in Spanish, though.