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August 4, 2005

Until recently, there were surprisingly few news stories written to explain how the flawed provisions of the Patriot Act affect our lives. What’s unsurprising – and heartening — is that once people understand these provisions, they generally oppose them

In the last few months, the media has begun to pay attention, and to ask the right questions. Now, as members of Congress prepare to meet in conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate Patriot bills, the media is giving the Patriot Act renewed scrutiny.

On Wednesday, Newsday published an article examining the Patriot Act and how it “may also pry” as it attempts to “protect.” Robert Polner quotes our very own Lisa Graves, who asks for proof that “these extraordinary powers have actually and materially made us safer,” the test defined by the 9/11 Commission,

Also making an appearance is Donna Lieberman, executive director of our New York chapter, talking about our battle, alongside the National Rifle Association, against the blanket gag provisions that govern “national security letters,” another sweeping government authority expanded by the Patriot Act

Polner’s piece is a good overview and includes highlights of the provisions originally scheduled to “sunset.”Polner could go further though, if he really wanted to put the law under the microscope. He could ask how the Patriot Act, if it had been in place before 9/11, would have deterred the terrorists who attacked America, or how it could have prevented the wholesale failures of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They’re questions that ought to be explored while there’s still time to reform the Patriot Act, and while people are paying attention.

In an opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia’s Republican former Congressman Bob Barr voiced his own alarm about “prying government eyes.” Barr is one of countless politicians from across the political spectrum who has joined the call for Patriot Act reform. Barr sounds a warning cry about the hundreds of thousands of “Suspicious Activity Reports,” now being filed by banks each year, under pressure from the government. He also comments on the recent terror attacks in London and the mistaken shooting of a Brazilian immigrant there by cops looking for terrorists.

The full article is here, but let me leave you with this quote:

Thanks to the USA Patriot Act – versions of which were reauthorized recently by both houses of the U.S. Congress – and the ease with which “sneak and peek” warrants may now be issued to the government, a man’s home is the government’s play box. And, also thanks to the Patriot Act, a person’s bank accounts are now routinely analyzed and reported to government agencies for little or no reason whatsoever.

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