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Some people say anyone who has nothing to hide shouldn't be bothered by the government looking into their affairs.
We say that attitude flies in the face of all that is American.
In America, we don't undergo investigation unless we're suspected of wrongdoing, and evidence exists to support the suspicion. In America, our affairs are nobody's business but our own.
That was the case, at least, in Old America.
With a horrible terrorist attack as justification, our freedom to be left alone was stolen from us. As was the norm in that time, one of the government efforts which stripped us of that right was given a name that served to spin, rather than describe, its purpose.
They called it the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act.
Wikipedia calls that a "contrived acronym," noting it stands for the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. It defines "contrived acronym" as one deliberately designed to be especially apt as a name for the thing being named.
If the purpose is to generate acceptance by Americans still reeling from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, what better name could it have been given?
Many Americans with strong patriotic feelings are concerned about the government exercising control it hasn't been granted, and have turned out in recent weeks to make their feelings clear. If they're sincere about wanting to rein in the government, they'll rally behind efforts to return the Constitutional protections stripped by the Patriot Act. That foolish legislation did more harm than good in terms of preventing terrorist attacks.
We recall that our government had advance information about an imminent attack on America, but had too few translators to deal with the amount of information needing translation. We recall that the people in our government most responsible for ensuring our safety were provided a briefing whose title told them we were to be attacked. And we recall reports that then-CIA Director George Tenet said of intelligence signaling the terrorist attacks, "the system was blinking red."
To claim the government needed free rein to peek into all of our private communications in order to protect the nation from terrorism was to ignore not only all of the warnings, but common sense itself.
The Patriot Act gave the government rights to peer into our conversations, our mail, our accounts and even the lists of books we've read at public libraries, stripping us of the protections formerly guaranteed even to known criminals.
Legislation is quickly moving through Congress, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, "which effectively reins in the out-of-control government powers embedded in the Patriot Act." Senate Bill 1686 was also titled with a contrived acronym, the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts. The JUSTICE Act is an attempt to put traditional protections such as court oversight back into investigative efforts.
A better course of action would be to repeal the Patriot Act. We know that's not likely, considering the current legislative leadership, so we're willing to back the improvements now under consideration. We ask that you do, as well, by contacting your legislators and urging their support of Senate Bill 1686.
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