Extension of the Patriot Act

While the world celebrated the capture of Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13, President George Bush signed a bill allowing the FBI more surveillance powers than it has ever had before, while at the same time essentially signing away our rights.

Expanding on the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001, the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 — or Patriot Act II — allows the FBI to have unwarranted access to the deepest of U.S. citizens’ secrets. While the original act was meant to single out potential terrorists, the latest version serves as an attempt to single out any potential “wrongdoing” while invading the privacy and rights of citizens.

Nat Hentoff, a “Constitutional watchdog,” commented to AlterNet, an alternative media Web site, that the newest version is “the most radical government plan in our history to remove from Americans their liberties under the Bill of Rights.” Attorney General John Ashcroft came up with more than 100 revisions to the Patriot Act, tailoring the new version to everyday citizens. For example, one revision allows the tapping of any phone line for 15 days and the monitoring of e-mail usage without a warrant. Another revision allows instantaneous deportation for any citizen suspected of terrorist activity on any level. The death penalty now covers 15 new offenses, and foreign countries — dictatorships included — are allowed secret surveillance on U.S. citizens.

An additional revision implements a database of citizen DNA information. Any avid watcher of Forensic Files knows that DNA is literally the genetic blueprint of an individual. In cases where rapists and other criminals have left organic evidence behind, DNA has assisted in their capture and confinement. However, according to Wired News, samples can be taken from anyone without a court order, provided a law enforcement officer suspects them of “wrongdoing” on any level.

Heaven forbid you refuse a cheek swabbing at the next roadblock, because citizens that do so can be fined upwards of $200,000 and face possible jail time.

True, the Bush administration might very well have good intentions, and it certainly may not become as extreme as profiling every individual who runs a red light. However, as the executive director of the Montana branch of the American Civil Liberties union, Scott Crichton, said to The Missoulian , “The intent, and how a law is applied, are often two different things.”

Too many elements of the Patriot Act II run counter to the Constitution. Invading citizens’ privacy and granting law enforcement officials blatant permission to investigate into any individual without the need for warrants is a serious erosion of civil liberties.