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The USA Patriot Act Violates Citizens' Rights
by Vince Page


You may recall that Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in 2001. We have now had sufficient time to see the new law in action and to study the result. Americans should be concerned. The USA Patriot Act has bestowed upon the court erected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — known as the FISA Court — the power to issue "secret warrants" against American citizens. These secret warrants were once reserved exclusively for the spies of a foreign government, and were primarily used during the Cold War. There are no exemptions in the USA Patriot Act for American citizens or legal immigrants, both of whom are protected by the Constitution, and these warrants are indeed being issued on American citizens. This makes the USA Patriot Act unconstitutional, and Congress should take note.

The Constitution states that, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." It's called the 4th amendment, which makes it part of the Bill of Rights. And as we all know, each of the ten amendments comprising the Bill of Rights describe individual rights, accorded to all citizens, which cannot be abrogated by the State because they were specifically enacted to protect us from the State, as a pre-condition for ratification of the Constitution. As such, they represent consideration for that ratification, and cannot now be repealed, taken back or watered-down. Congress would do well to reflect on this.

The USA Patriot Act allows the Justice Department to petition the FISA Court for a "secret warrant" which allows anything from searches of private property to telephone taps, camera surveillance, aircraft surveillance and any form of electronic surveillance, without your knowledge. You may never know that someone has snooped through your house and put everything back just the way it was before leaving. The new powers against American citizens are so vast that the FBI has had to dedicate 80 surveillance planes solely to domestic spying.

To appreciate the scope of the problem, go to your favorite internet search engine and type-in the words, "secret warrants". I did, and I got 148,000 hits, most of which describe tens and hundreds of such warrants and the trouble they cause. What trouble? It is now possible for a U.S. citizen to be convicted of a crime without ever knowing why the government was given permission to spy on them in the first place. The "secret" part of the warrant applies throughout the entire legal process, even if a U.S. citizen is arrested as a result of the warrant and goes to court. A U.S. citizen is not allowed to know the basis for the secret warrant nor the places searched or the things seized — even during their trial — if the evidence was obtained with one of these secret warrants. How's that for trouble?

This is a clear violation of the 6th amendment, which reads, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence."

Once again, it is clear that the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional when applied to American citizens. This points up the need for terrorism laws to clearly differentiate the rights of citizens and legal immigrants from the rights of others. There has been a lot of "freedom for security" trading going on since September 11th, but this clearly crosses the Constitutional line. The second version of the USA Patriot Act — which is now in the works — needs to fix these civil rights violations.

To compound matters even further, secret FBI documents which have recently been declassified reveal that many mistakes have been made in prosecuting these secret warrants [1]. The wrong people have had their houses searched, their e-mails and cell phone calls intercepted, or their activities captured on videotape. The undercover work associated with secret warrants appears to be quite sloppy, perhaps because the "secret" part of the warrant means that there are few checks and balances on these activities.

The fundamental flaw with the USA Patriot Act goes back to a preconceived notion in the United States that anyone lucky or brave enough to illegally plant their pinky toe on American soil is automatically entitled to all of the protections in our Constitution. In the USA Patriot Act, this has resulted in the rights of U.S. citizens being downgraded to the rights of non-citizens, since we are all viewed as being on the same legal level. But we are not on the same level. U.S. citizens have earned the right to Constitutional protections either outright or via the sacrifices made by their families. Legal immigrants have in essence been asked to come to America at the express invitation of the U.S. Congress. They too are entitled to Constitutional protection, but it is our responsibility to check their backgrounds thoroughly before their pilgrim feet are allowed to tread across the American wilderness. We know that this was not being done prior to September 11th, but it needs to be done in every instance.

This leaves those who are here illegally, either by violating our borders or by overstaying their welcome. In either case, the new provisions of the USA Patriot Act definitely apply to them and should continue to apply to them. The USA Patriot Act simply needs to be amended to clearly specify that secret warrants may not be issued on U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.

The Federation of American Scientists have started a very good web page for further research on this issue, which I highly recommend [2]. And until Congress corrects their mistakes in this matter, we would all do well to be wary of those who are quick to suggest that U.S. citizens and legal immigrants should trade their freedom and their privacy for greater security, for in the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither."


[1] See http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fisa/ec.pdf

[2] See http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fisa/


Vince Page is the Communications Director for the Texas State Constitution Party and is a District Deputy for the Texas State Knights of Columbus. He can be e-mailed at vincepage@ifriendly.com

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When honest people who hold strong opinions come together, it is natural that they state their opinions, and that those opinions occasionally clash. The articles that you see on this website represent the opinion of the writers, and are not the official opinion of this party. To see the official party position on any question, the reader is referred to the Party Platform.


Permission to reprint/republish granted, as long as you include the name of our site, the author,and our URL. www.cptexas.org. All CP Texas reports, and all editorials are property of The Constitution Party of Texas 2002 (unless otherwise noted).



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