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Fear and loathing over the Patriot Act

Thursday, October 15, 2009 | 9:34 a.m. CDT; updated 8:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 15, 2009

You thought the Obama administration was seeking to restrict your freedoms of privacy, right to choice and ability to travel. Have you forgotten the dictatorial restrictions imposed on the citizens of this great nation by Misters Bush and Cheney and the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover (party dress and all)?

I met the late Hunter “Doc” S. Thompson, gonzo journalist, novelist, humorist, satirist, minister for the Universal Life Church, drunk, druggy and founder of the now defunct Fourth Amendment Foundation, a few times while living and working in Colorado. For some unknown reason, I was once invited to the Owl Farm. It was when Hunter was running for Pitkin County sheriff, and I was the insurance agent for Pitkin County. I refused. He lost. My fault.

In 2001 Hunter resurfaced when, in an atmosphere of fear and loathing, our legislators passed the now-infamous Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, the USA Patriot Act.

As sections of the act are appearing on the congressional horizon for renewal, I believe Hunter is seeking a method of resurrection, in return for giving up margaritas and grass, to write yet another scathing article for Rolling Stone.

Most Democrats voted for the USA Patriot Act. Only one Democratic senator voted against the bill, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. In the House, 145 Dems voted “Yea” along with 211 Republicans. No one read the proposed legislation. I am not proud of this but it is fact.

The 67 legislators (62 Democrats, 4 GOP and one independent) voting “no” new that HR 3162, now Public Law 107-056, was and is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That, “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.”

Yet we are searched, without probable cause, at the airport when traveling to grandma’s. We remove our shoes, belts, jackets and other clothing that might hide a bomb without question. Our electronic devices are searched, examined and dusted for bomb residue. We smile and have the wand passed over our bodies in search of metal because we are randomly chosen. All in the name of national security – fear and loathing in airports.

Three provisions of PL 107-056 are due for renewal this December. In part, 2009 HR 1467 will “allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, America’s 'secret' court to grant government access to tangible items (books, records, etc.) in international terrorism, and clandestine intelligence cases.” Yes, we have a secret court, so secret that the names of the judges are highly classified but you just spent $2 million for its new home.

The act provides that your personal data from businesses, credit card companies and your Internet provider, among others, will be available to law enforcement, without a warrant, in the name of Homeland Security. This provision is being considered for renewal by Congress this fall. It is a provision the Obama administration supports and a provision of which I am very familiar. A blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.  

That funny-looking bar code on the back of your driver’s license (go ahead, take it out, look) will eventually hold ALL of your personal information. Your Social Security Number, DNA, credit score, medical information and much more, available to anyone who has the equipment to read the code. Anyone. Courtesy of the USA Patriot Act.

J. Edgar’s ghost is laughing at us from his perch atop the Supreme Court. Ho ho. The Constitution has a loophole.

I might be channeling Hunter after reading (for the third time) “Better than Sex.” I want to resurrect the Fourth Amendment Foundation. I want to preserve the Constitution and protect the citizens of our nation from unwarranted search and seizure – including public disrobing in airports. Want to join me?

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.  Read his blog at InkandVoice.wordpress.com.  He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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