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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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President Barack Obama, escorted by John Bercow, left, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Helen Hayman, Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, walks into Westminster Hall to address members of both Houses of Parliament in London, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
What's so patriotic about the Patriot Act? ...

- Patriot games: Utahns right to oppose Patriot Act

This week, President Obama stood in London’s Westminster Hall and, like a gracious guest, praised the British roots, and the American expression, of the principles of freedom and democracy. The president, as is his wont, used stirring words to restate not only the belief that those values are important, but that the United States and the United Kingdom have a joint responsibility to uphold them around the world.

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Meanwhile, back in the comparatively younger halls of Congress, those same principles were being tossed aside as members of the Senate and the House have — at Obama’s request — been voting to extend three needless and overreaching provisions of the needless and overreaching Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act, passed in a frightful haste in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, codified a panicked nation’s rush to trample the very core of its ideals, as laid down in the Bill of Rights, by giving federal law enforcement agencies the power to go around the rule of law and over the heads of relevant judicial review to spy on anyone our agents suspect of, well, anything.

Three particular provisions were to expire Friday, though Obama has asked for them to be extended and it seems that both houses have the votes to continue them for some period of time. They allow federal agents a huge degree of latitude to tap the phone calls and emails of people with no known criminal history or terrorist links, to search people’s business and personal records without showing even the slightest evidence of probable cause to a judge and to get warrants for roving wiretaps, not on particular persons, but on any old "John Doe" suspect the FBI might be curious about.

And when we say "people," we mean you.

No one has established the need for laws that exempt investigators from the very requirements Obama this week praised in their birthplace, primarily the need for a judge’s warrant and probable cause before the law can search your private business.

Some in Congress are bravely speaking out against the extension of these provisions. They include Utah’s and Reps. Sen. Mike Lee, Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop — but not, sadly, the dean of the delegation, Sen. Orrin Hatch, or its only Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson. Opponents also include Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats.

These provisions do not protect people from terrorists. They protect politicians from being labeled soft on terrorism.

If Obama would listen to his own speech, and members of Congress would read the Constitution they swore to uphold, we might be rid of the odious Patriot Act once and for all.

Related:

- Fix Patriot Act or don't extend it - Orange County Register Editorial

... This is crucial because it involves' Americans Fourth Amendment "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Without that right, government has the ability to, among other things, spy on citizens at will. The Fourth Amendment was severely eroded earlier this month when the U.S. Supreme Court vastly expanded police powers to conduct warrantless searches. ...

- A chance to put protections in the Patriot Act - Washington Post Editorial

Congress appears poised to renew important counterterrorism provisions before they are to expire at the end of the week. That much is welcome. But it is disappointing that lawmakers may extend the Patriot Act measures without additional protections meant to ensure that these robust tools are used appropriately. ...

- Separate Patriot facts from bin Laden's misfortunes - Aurora (Colo.) Sentinel Editorial

Reeling in one of the world’s most notorious criminal leaders was a coup for the United States and the ability to pursue good intelligence tips to fruition, but it was hardly a ringing endorsement for renewing and un-edited Patriot Act. ...

- The Secret PATRIOT Act and the End of Limited Government in America - E.D. Kain, Forbes

... The 2001 signing of the PATRIOT Act marked the beginning of a "temporary" and unofficial state of emergency for the American people. During this state of emergency our liberties, privacy, and due process would all be sacrificed in order for us to wage war on terrorism at home and abroad. ...



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