My Turn: Patriot Act threatens fundamental freedoms guaranteed in Bill of Rights

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003

We need to support Senate Joint Resolution No. 15 and House Joint Resolution No. 22. U.S. troops have been asked to fight for freedom and democracy - protecting our freedom and democracy at home, but also helping to give freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. However, when the USA Patriot Act was passed, Congress gave the executive branch sweeping new powers that undermined our Bill of Rights. What are the rights that are being threatened? They are:

• First Amendment - Freedom of religion, speech, assembly and the press. (New attorney general guidelines allow FBI spying on religious and political organizations and individuals without having evidence of wrongdoing)

• Fourth Amendment - Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. (Expands the ability of law enforcement to conduct secret searches, gives them wide powers of phone and Internet surveillance, and access to highly personal medical, financial, mental health, library, video, and student records with minimal judicial oversight.)

• Fifth Amendment - No person to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. (Allows FBI agents to investigate American citizens for criminal matters without probable cause of crime if they say it is for "intelligence purposes.")

• Sixth Amendment - Right to a speedy public trail by an impartial jury, right to be informed of the facts of the accusation, right to confront witnesses and have the assistance of counsel. (8,000 Arab and South Asian immigrants have been interrogated because of their religion or ethnic background, not because of actual wrongdoing; American citizens suspected of terrorism are being held indefinitely in military custody without being charged and without access to lawyers.)

• Eighth Amendment - No excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment shall be imposed. (Thousands of men, mostly of Arab and South Asian origin, have been held in secretive federal custody for weeks and months, sometimes without any charges filed against them. The government has refused to publish their names and whereabouts, even when ordered to do so by the courts.)

• Fourteenth Amendment - All persons (citizens and non-citizens) within the U.S. are entitled to due process and the equal protection of the laws. (The press and the public have been barred from immigration court hearings of those detained after 9/11 and the courts are ordered to keep secret even that the hearings are taking place.)

Our civil liberties are being threatened by the USA Patriot Act - the threat to patriotic dissent, the threat to liberty, the threat to equality, the threat to constitutional checks and balances, the threat to open government as well as the threat to the rule the law. I know that our forefathers and mothers would be spinning in their graves if they knew what was happening today. Many of them fought and died for the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights just like our young men and women are fighting and dying today for those same rights.

These precious amendments need to be given back to U.S. That is why it is so important to pass this resolution before our U.S. troops come home because we don't want their sacrifice to be a sham. The USA Patriot Act goes against our U.S. Constitution, our Bill of Rights and the Alaska Constitution! It goes against freedom and democracy! It violates civil rights and liberties! Please demand that we be given back the rights many have fought for and are now fighting for; have died for and are dying for.

Janet Kussart of Juneau thinks the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are worth saving.

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