Something to think about

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Annie, Dec 5, 2003.

  1. Annie

    Annie Diamond Member

    Nov 22, 2003
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    I'll probably post this elsewhere, but this is the first place, as it seems appropriate, as it's from a moderate republican and a moderate democrat, both New Yorkers: a call for sense


    December 5, 2003 -- THE brutal attacks of 9/11 brought home to the American people what should have been clear to our nation's leaders years before that fateful day: We are at war with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and their radical Islamic terrorist allies throughout the world and within our borders.
    It is a war that threatens our national survival. Yet, listening to an increasingly shrill chorus of political voices, Americans could almost conclude that the real threat to our country comes not from bin Laden and al Qaeda but John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act.

    Wesley Clark says the Patriot Act "essentially suspended habeas corpus." Howard Dean calls the law "shameful" and "unconstitutional." Dick Gephardt pledges to fire Aschroft in his "first five minutes as president." John Kerry assures his audiences, "There will be no John Ashcroft trampling on the Bill of Rights" in a Kerry administration.

    All this for a law that two years ago passed both houses overwhelmingly, with only one dissenting vote in the Senate.

    For the most part, the Democratic presidential aspirants have not gone beyond applause-gathering one-liners. But former Vice President Al Gore recently delivered a detailed speech extremely critical of the Patriot Act and the motives of the Bush administration itself.

    Gore accused the president and his attorney general of "constant violations of civil liberties," "putting our country in grave and unnecessary danger" and "using the war against terrorism for partisan advantage." His attacks centered on three parts of the Patriot Act: Sec. 214, which allows federal agents to delay giving suspects notice after a search has been carried out; Sec. 215, which allows searches of medical, business and library records of suspected terrorists; and Sec. 218, which allows surveillance of cell phones and Internet communications.

    Before addressing these specifics, let's put Gore's case in its proper perspective by citing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who recently said she hadn't found a "single abuse of the Patriot Act" - and when she asked the ACLU for any instance of abuse, was told, "they had none." Similarly, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said criticism of the Patriot Act "is both misinformed and overblown" and the Justice Department has "done a pretty good job in terms of implementing" the law.

    Now for the details.

    * The delayed notification in Sec. 213 was already the law in cases involving organized crime, narcotics and pornography. It makes common sense because it would be absurd to inform a suspected mobster or a terrorist during the course of an investigation that a listening device had been installed in his home or office.

    * Sec. 215 - the much-feared "assault against librarians" - has not been used even once. Nonetheless, we strongly believe this is a weapon that must remain in the prosecutor's arsenal. There could well be cases, for instance, when it would be critical to learn whether a suspected terrorist is reading books on explosives or the structural design of office buildings, landmark sites, bridges or tunnels. It should also be noted that library records were instrumental in tracking down such murderers as the Zodiac killer and the Unabomber.

    * Sec. 218 merely gives federal agents authority to conduct surveillance of cell phones and the Internet to the same extent they can surveil rotary phones. It would be foolhardy to let terrorists use the technology of modern telecommunications without fear of being detected.

    The bottom line is that the criticisms by Gore and the other critics are shameful and irresponsible. Of course we gave our government added power in the aftermath of 9/11. These powers are essential to confront a new and deadly threat.

    We are also well aware that all police powers are susceptible to abuse. That risk exists, however, every time we give a law-enforcement office a loaded weapon. It is the job of the Legislatures and the courts to guard against such abuses. Responsible criticism is essential to safeguarding our citizens against governmental abuse.

    It is in that spirit of responsible criticism that we raise our own concern - on President Bush's claimed right (which is not a part of the Patriot Act) to declare American citizens "enemy combatants" and effectively take them out of the legal system by detaining them indefinitely without judicial review. This practice is too susceptible to well-intentioned error - let alone abuse - without built-in judicial safeguards. Similarly, whether or not an individual is entitled to proceed in a court action, any person being detained should have the right to consult with an attorney.

    Having raised these concerns, we commend President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft for the superb job they have done over the past two years. Our liberties have been protected and our country has not been attacked. Unlike their critics, George W. Bush and John Ashcroft have had to face the hard choices and make the hard decisions. And they have made them well.

    Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. Ed Koch was New York City mayor, 1978-1989.
    Copyright 2003 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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