Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
The USA Patriot Act is not Patriotism
March 7, 2003
Patriot: "One who loves, supports, and defends one's country." This
definition is from the American Heritage Dictionary.
U. S. A. Patriot Act: This definition is from the U. S. Congress.
With great haste and secrecy and in the name of "war on terrorism"
Congress passed legislation that gives the Executive Branch sweeping
new powers that undermine the Bill of Rights.
Since my ancestors fought in the American Revolution and I have loved my
country for more years than most, I think I have a right, really a duty,
to object to Congress' re-writing of the Constitution in a burst of
The Patriot Act contains 342 pages and most members of Congress admitted
that they had read only a few paragraphs or none at all. It was thrown
together in 45 days and Congress passed it on October 26, 2001 and the
President signed it the same day.
It threatens the First Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments, including, among many other things, freedom of speech and
religion, freedom from search and seizure, right to due process of the
and the right to privacy within one's home.
The Patriot Bill was guided through Congress by John Ashcroft, defeated
in his bid for re-election as Senator from Missouri, and appointed
Attorney General by President Bush. Perhaps he should have read what
Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1759, ""They that can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or
safety." To protect ourselves at the cost of losing the very basis of
freedom on which our country was built is to lose what we are fighting
Jonathan Turley, writing for the Los Angeles Times said, "Ever since
Ashcroft pushed the U. S. Patriot Act through an overwhelmingly supine
Congress soon after September 11, he has subverted more elements of the
Bill of Rights than any attorney general in American history."
But the Patriot Act was not enough. The Justice Department included in
the Homeland Security Act, a section called Operation TIPS, which was
even more frightening. It would have given millions of truckers, letter
carriers, train conductors, utility workers and others a formal way to
report "suspicious activity." It would have encouraged the public to
report on their neighbors' suspicious behavior, on the books they read,
the friends they have, the organizations to which they give money
Fortunately, it was stopped by Republican Representative Dick Arney and
Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy. But more than 200,000 tips have been
filed anyway since September 11.
But Ashcroft did not want to hear criticism or protest. As the dissent
began to grow, he made this outrageous statement to The Senate Judiciary
Committee last December. "We need honest, reasoned debate; not fear
mongering.....To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of
lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists --
for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give
ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They
encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."
Many highly reputable organizations in America are fighting back. The
American Civil Liberties Union has started a national campaign to
challenge government anti-terrorist effort, called Keep America Safe
and Free . ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield says, "The Bush
administration has presented Americans with a false dichotomy that we
must choose between being safe or free. We're saying there doesn't have
to be a choice. We can stay safe and free at the same time."
An ACLU press release reads, "We will continue to voice our disagreement
when we feel the government has stepped out of bounds and will do so
with the conviction that one of the highest forms of patriotism is
devotion to the Constitution and the freedoms guaranteed within,
including the right to speak out in disagreement with the powers that
Meanwhile, where are the Congressional Democrats?