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|'True Patriot' would restore rights
The backlash against the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 is picking up speed and snap.
On Sept. 24, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul introduced the Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act (HR3171) to repeal the most controversial sections of the Patriot Act as well as some of the more egregious actions taken by the Department of Justice.
When introducing the True Patriot Act, Kucinich told members of the House: "Twenty-four months after the Sept. 11th attacks, this nation has undergone a dramatic political change, leading to an unprecedented assault on the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
The act already has 20 other cosponsors, at this point all Democrats, but as the word gets out concerning key elements of this bill, expect conservatives, moderates and liberals to push for its passage.
The Kucinich-Paul bill has already garnered the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Muslim Voice, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism.
The True Patriot Act heralds its intent by quoting Benjamin Franklin's famous statement: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty or Safety."
The act would make 11 sections of the Patriot Act null and void 90 days after the bill is enacted. Under the language of the bill, the president can request Congress to hold hearings to determine whether a particular section should be removed from the repeal list before the end of the 90-day period. Congress may or may not honor that request.
The True Patriot Act would repeal Section 213 of the Patriot Act, which authorized property to be searched and seized in secret by government law enforcement officials, without notifying the subject of a warrant.
The act would repeal Section 214 and Section 216, relating to the use of pen registers for foreign intelligence purposes and criminal cases. Pen registers record all phone numbers dialed from a person's telephone.
It would repeal Section 215, which authorized searches of library, bookstore, medical, financial, religious and travel records without a judicial warrant.
The True Patriot Act would repeal the broader application of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorized by the Patriot Act, Section 218. This section of the Patriot Act, in essence, gutted the Fourth Amendment's requirement for probable cause to obtain a search warrant in criminal investigations.
The act would repeal Sections 411 and 412 of the Patriot Act, which granted new grounds for the deportation and/or the mandatory detention of aliens.
The act also would repeal Section 505 of the Patriot Act which authorized FBI field agents to issue national security letters to obtain financial, bank and credit records of individuals - all without a court order or judicial oversight.
And the True Patriot Act would repeal Sections 507 and 508 of the Patriot Act relating to the seizure of educational records and the disclosure of individually identifiable information under the National Education Statistics Act of 1994.
Finally, in regard to the Patriot Act, the True Patriot Act would repeal Section 802, which defined the new crime of "domestic terrorism." The definition is so broad that political protests that unaccountably become violent could be classified as domestic terrorism.
The Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act also would repeal sections of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, so that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are no longer exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The True Patriot Act goes further - to roll back policing powers that the federal government took upon itself since Sept. 11 without congressional authorization.
For example, the federal government would no longer be able to monitor conversations between attorneys and their clients, violating the fundamental right of attorney-client privilege.
The act would void U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's memorandum to all agencies of the federal government narrowing the scope of FOIA and the ability of citizens to obtain information about how their government is working.
The act reinstates tough guidelines instituted in 1989 by former Attorney General Dick Thornburg to rein in a runaway FBI, which had been conducting unlawful surveillance of protesters, peace demonstrators and religious groups. Spying on religious institutions - allowed by Ashcroft's rules - would be put under strict limits.
Fundamental liberties at stake
The Patriot Act of 2001, a 342-page document, was passed without meaningful review. Many members of Congress hadn't read the bill; some still haven't.
The Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act would rectify the Patriot Act's serious shortcomings. And, if passed, the True Patriot Act would put this administration on notice that the American people will not barter away their fundamental liberties for so-called safety. Americans understand the risks involved in living with and for freedom - after all, our freedom was born in revolution.