Friday, August 22, 2003

Regarding the Patriot Act, I have a couple of observations. When one’s family member dies, people afford the grieving survivors some latitude in dealing with their loss. Work schedules are accommodated, lapses in manners are excused and so forth. A similar situation existed in the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Some over-reaction in the interest of collective grieving and constructive efforts to prevent a recurrence were understandable. However, as with the grief accompanying an individual loss, things eventually return to normal, as I believe they should in the area of civil liberties. I particularly object to the provisions regarding indefinite detentions without charges, and the degradation of due process.

Furthermore, I do not trust the government to restrain itself when presented with expanded powers. In at least two areas, those being seizures of property from innocent third persons in drug cases and the ridiculous excesses of “zero tolerance laws.” The government and its agents have not shown the type of self-restraint necessary to entrust them with greater powers. This is especially so when exercise of those powers will be largely beyond scrutiny.

This actually is not a knock against the government. I like policies and procedures that make my job easier, as I’m sure do most people entrusted with great responsibilities. But when the ease of protecting something (such as civil liberties) involves corrupting the thing being protected, the line has been crossed. I don’t fault Ashcroft for asking for more powers; that is after-all within the scope of his job. But he is asking that those powers be taken at the detriment of liberties that I, as a free citizen, have as much responsibility in upholding as does any officer of the United Sates government. Therefore, when Mr. Ashcroft asks for greater powers at my sufferance, I believe that I should politely say “no.”

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