Monday, October 31, 2005

The Patriot Act

Just in case you missed the absence of media buzz this week, the House of Representatives is meeting now to discuss what to do about this year's expiration of laws in the Patriot Act granting government increased rights to perform wire taps, obtain search warrants, and set certain crimes punishable by death. In reaction to 9/11, the House of Representatives passed a law called the Patriot Act without much debate, or media opposition. That law made it legal for the government to access personal information such as medical records, tax records, information about the books you buy or borrow, and the power to break into your home and conduct secret searches without telling you. The problem is, all of these searches are legitimate even if the investigating organization fails to prove proabable cause if they are gathering information on Terrorism. Meaning, if a government organization is looking into "Terrorism" it may, without proving why, undergo of what would otherwise be considered an illegal search.

The Patriot Act is set to expire later this year, and in preparation, the House of Representatives is meeting to discuss what to do. In face of the expiration of these laws, the House of Representatives, (again without much attention, or discussion) is increasing the number of offenses that could result in the death penalty from 20 to 61. Meaning that if you gave money to an organization which later used that money to fund a terrorist action, you could be put to death. Even if you didn't know where that money was going.

I'm not trying to say anything about the government's role in permitting illegal searches and siezures (which are expressly forbidden in the Constitution), nor am I trying to say anything about the death penalty (which, as a pacifist, I do not support), all I am saying is that this issue should have a greater audience. The issue is far to important to carry on without debate and attention. When we begin to enact laws which expressly restrain rights enumerated by the Constitution itself without discussing such actions, we begin the decline of true democracy. I know it sounds a bit drastic, but undermining the Constitution itself is no small potatoes.

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