Monday, July 9, 2007

Patriot Act Illegal 03-09-18

Patriot Act is an injury inflicted on the Constitution

Mirza A. Beg

Written, September 28,2003
Secondflagsalute. Online magazine Sept.28, 2003
The Anniston Star Thursday, October 16th, 2003
The Birmingham News, Sunday, October 19th, 2003

Shocked Americans in the wake of 9/11 gave Bush a free hand to deal with a situation that was difficult to fathom in the fog of the debris of the twin towers. Under pressure from the administration the Congress approved the Patriot Act in October 2001, but had the wisdom to limit it to 2005 to be reevaluated.

USA PATRIOT Act is a contrived acronym to pull at our heartstrings. It stands for, 'Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and obstruct Terrorism'.

Attorney General Ashcroft is canvassing to make it permanent and even more draconian. On September 27th concerned citizens of Birmingham held a hearing in the city hall on the nature of the Patriot Act. They had the courage to expose its insidious nature in the face of an onslaught by the present administration.

What makes America so special is its constitution. The reason for the survival of the constitution is the protection of civil liberties under the bill of rights. According to Nancy Chang, of Center for Constitutional rights, the Patriot Act violates 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th amendments.

In violation of the 1st amendments' right of association, people were arrested for simply buying air tickets from the agency the terrorist used. In violation of the 4th amendment, Ashcroft can and has held people incommunicado without ever being charged. Ashcroft proposes to completely do away with judicial oversight and need for a warrant. Reliance on secret evidence makes a mockery of the 5th and 6th amendments. In many cases the accused are denied effective counsel. Indefinite detention violates the right to speedy trial, a cruel and unusual punishment, violating the 8th amendment.

Librarians and booksellers have bitterly complained at being coerced to spy for the government under this nefarious act.

The proclamation of these rights in the US gave millions around the world a will to fight to attain them. These rights are in jeopardy in the land of their birth. The system of checks and balance has been tilted in favor of the executive branch. The Patriot act amputates the arm of justice in favor of the arm of the prosecution and makes these violations possible.

The people who were responsible for the 9/11 tragedy were Muslims of Middle Eastern descent. The government not only had the right but a duty to investigate the possibilities of terrorist cells among them. But they did not have to be arrested in the Soviet style, without informing even the family members some were whisked away to unknown destinations.

The detentions are Kafkasque. Kafka was quite familiar with the pogroms in the Eastern Europe. His partly written manuscript was posthumously published as an existential classic “The Trial,” where “Joseph K” is arrested and is supposed to defend himself without knowing the charges. The Patriot Act does exactly the same thing.

Ashcroft is empowered by the patriot act to misuse his powers without effective legal recourse. More than 1,200 people were arrested on minor visa violation or simply as material witnesses. According to internal Justice Department investigation, suspects were held for weeks without charges, and confined for about three additional months even after being formally cleared of the charges. Some were kept in solitary confinement for months, without a shred of evidence against an overwhelming majority of them. Some were even beaten and tortured. This is selective state terrorism.

This is not a liberal issue or a conservative issue. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It separates those who value human dignity from those who don’t. Many conservative think tanks have opposed this Act. Republican Senator Arlen Specter calls the lack of candor from the administration as "a big black hole'. Republican Senator Charles Grassley says, "it is like pulling teeth to get answers". More than 177 communities and three states have adopted resolutions opposing the Patriot Act.

The American constitution is an elegant document. It has taken more than two centuries of struggle for its protections to be actually enforced. Acts once considered lawful- mistreatment of the Indians, slavery, racism against Jews, Irish, Italians, Hispanics, and others, the internment of Japanese Americans during the 2nd World War, and the McCarthyite red baiting of mid Fifties - In time were interpreted to be unconstitutional.

Today we are ashamed of that part of our past. The redeeming feature is that America has consistently, with setbacks from time to time, evolved to be a better country and will not dream of justifying those practices.

The terrorists gave America a body blow on 9/11, from which we are fully capable of recovering. The present administration is insidiously injuring the soul of American liberty, which if not challenged may prove to be lethal. Let us take this country on the road to freedom and excellence and rescue it from the road of fear.

Mirza A. Beg may be contacted at

No comments: