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Patriot Act II: Final Piece of Police State Puzzle Ready
The Bush administration’s allies in Congress, led by J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the speaker of the House, have launched another assault on constitutionally protected civil liberties with a bill many are calling Patriot Act II (PA II). However, it is not to be confused with the 2003 version of Patriot Act II. But according to the Associated Press, in a draft of the House GOP legislation, many of the provisions are similar to the draft copy of the “Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003” that leaked out of the Justice Department in January 2003.
Many Democrats and civil libertarians charge the new PA II authorizes heavy-handed infringements on civil liberties. House Democratic leaders and civil liberties advocates said on Sept. 22 that the Republican bill ostensibly responding to the findings of the 9-11 commission would go well beyond the panel’s recommendations. It would call for broad new powers for law enforcement agencies, they said, and would include new authority to conduct electronic surveillance in terrorism investigations.
Among the provisions, said AP, are measures on the deportation of aliens who are suspected of being linked to foreign revolutionary groups which have been labeled as terrorists, mandatory pretrial detention for terrorism suspects, warrants against non-citizens even when a target can’t be tied to a foreign power and enhanced penalties for threats or attempts to use chemical or nuclear weapons.
John Feehery is a spokesman for Hastert. Feehery told AP that criticism of the bill was unwarranted as of the evening of Sept. 22, because the legislation was still not in final form and was not ready for release to the public. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) agreed on Sept. 22 that House members were still working on a final version of the legislation.
But critics warn that the proposed law is aimed against the entire U.S. population, not a minority of Arab immigrants.
The proposal, they say, would grant the government the power to strip citizenship of native-born Americans and deport them without any evidence of wrongdoing, even though this would be contrary to the Constitution.
It would also allow for secret arrests, secret trials and secret torturing of “suspects.” Habeas corpus, Americans’ most sacred right, would be eliminated.
The law would also remove all restrictions on police spying on citizens.
Patriot Act II would create 15 new death penalties, one of which could be applied to acts of protest. Under the Hastert measure’s definitions, anti-war protesters could be deemed terrorists. In fact, any dissident could be spied on, harassed, and imprisoned indefinitely for exercising their legal and constitutionally protected rights.
This legislation would give the government the same power that Stalin and Julius Caesar gave themselves, said one detractor.
While terrorism certainly is a threat that must be addressed, curtailing the civil liberties of innocent Americans is by no means a way of doing so.
AFP readers will recall that the first so-called Patriot Act was passed without the members of Congress being allowed to view the draft of the bill. Those who wanted it to be read and debated were told to vote for it or they would be blamed for the next terrorist outrage. It passed overwhelmingly.
Many experts fear similar tactics will be used to pass PA II, keeping the public ignorant of the proposed law’s existence until it is too late.
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