The events of 9/11 really did result in Americans coming together in unprecedented ways. One of the more impressive examples was a coalition of groups who are usually at each other's throats. Members included the ACLU, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, People for The American Way, Gun Owners of America, and about 70 other organizations whose political opinions are all over the map. They formed the Defense Of Freedom Organization, designed to discourage congress from stripping our civil rights with The Patriot Act. Congress pretended to listen, then passed the act overwhelmingly.
The disgustingly named Patriot Act has been rightly condemned by many commentators. Rather than repeat their thoroughly justified indignation, let's look at some of the things that didn't get into it. It provides a good insight into just how low these weasels will go.
Just a two days after the attack Rep. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire called for a global prohibition of encryption without back doors the government (and everyone else) could use to access the information. He was stiring up a battle that had been fought and won during the Clinton administration. Bubba eventually gave up, perhaps realizing that since secure encryption without back doors was already widely available, they just weren't going to be able to get that toothpaste back into the tube. But given the opportunity, Gregg tried dig the entire mess up again. Perhaps he should read the slogan that decorates his state's license plates.
Congress critters have long lists of freedoms they'd like to take from us, and they've always been good at finding bogey men to justify themselves. Up until now the favorite has been pedophiles. Their post 9/11 lists are identical to their pre 9/11 lists with one exception. In the "scary justification" box "pedophiles" has been smudged out, and "terrorist" hastily penciled in.
One version of this bill redefined terrorism to include simple hacking. A kid who defaced a web site would be looking at 20 years in prison, for his first offense. The gambling nannies weighed in too, claiming, with out the slightest shred of evidence, that terrorists use off-shore internet gambling to finance themselves and to launder money. That didn't make it into the act either, although a bill with similar provisions (and justifications) is now wending it's way through congress.
The RIAA is the enforcement arm of the recording industry. Their jobs include suing Napster out of business and making sure members of congress are bought and paid for. (They get a quantity discount.) They proposed a provision that would have allowed them to hack into your PC and erase files and/or programs they thought you shouldn't have. No, this is not a joke or an urban legend. Their proposed amendments can be found here. They feel they are perfectly within their rights to hack into your PC and delete your Barenaked Ladies MP3s, and anything else they feel like destroying. If they "accidentally" erase your hard drive, they want to be able to shrug it off and move on to the next PC that's sharing files. Evidently one of the checks to congress bounced, because their amendment wasn't included.
One of the only good things about this act is that some (but not all) of the provisions expire in five years. Sunset clauses are rare, and should be included on every law. (More on that in an upcoming article) But that was little more than an admission that this is a horrible, horrible bill, something to help take some of the stink off.
Bush has stated, over and over, that the terrorists hate us because we have too much freedom. His plan, evidently, is to give them less to hate.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of good articles on the net that explain why this bill is horrible. Here are a couple to get you started:
© 2001 Dave Hitt