We Must Never Let the Terrorists Win

April 8, 2005

By Peyton Knight

“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.”

That is the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was designed and ratified by our nation’s founders to protect Americans from a federal government that, as our founders feared, would grow ever intrusive, overbearing, and downright power mad.

Certain provisions of the Patriot Act irreparably harm this critical constitutional liberty. The Act was passed just 45 days following the horrific 9/11 attacks. Congress didn’t even read the bill before they voted on it. As such, Congress made certain that the most extraordinary provisions of the bill, particularly those that are constitutionally challenged, would be subject to Congressional review and would expire in December of 2005.

As we’ve written before, terrorism should never be used as an excuse for government to grab unconstitutional power and monitor and track the whereabouts of law-abiding Americans. In the days following the terrorist attacks, Donald Rumsfeld stated, “The people who committed these acts are clearly determined to try to force the United States of America and our values from the world, or to respond by curtailing our freedoms. If we do that, the terrorists will have won.”

We must never let them win. And that is why the American Policy Center has joined an important new network of conservative and libertarian groups called Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB).

PRCB is chaired by former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), a stalwart in the fight to protect constitutional liberty. When Congressman Barr asked the American Policy Center to join this new effort, we jumped at the chance. Specifically, PRCB believes that the threat of terrorism cannot be allowed to dissolve or erode our most basic freedoms which are so carefully spelled out and protected by our Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution.

At a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., Barr announced that the immediate goal of the coalition is to modify a few of the more extreme provisions of the Patriot Act. “Now is the time for Congress to review and consider amending these provisions to protect Americans’ most fundamental freedoms, and bring the law in line with the checks and balances demanded by the Constitution.”

PRCB is urging Congress to modify the following extreme, unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act:

– Section 213: This section allows federal agents to secretly search your home or business and even confiscate your personal possessions without ever notifying you.

– Section 215: This section allows federal agents to secretly collect records about you, including such personal information as your medical history, library records, and even records of firearm purchases.

– Section 802: This section expands the definition of domestic terrorism so broadly that ordinary people simply exercising their first amendment rights, such as pro-life demonstrators, could be classified and charged as “terrorists.”

Imagine if Bill Clinton’s Justice Department had possessed these powers! Imagine these unprecedented powers in the hands of future presidents with Clinton-like “morals.” The prospect is downright frightening. The next Janet Reno will have a field day going after gun owners, pro-lifers, conservatives, and anyone deemed a “political enemy.”

Vigils held outside abortion clinics could be deemed terrorist acts. Federal bureaucrats can track every gun purchase and gun owner in America. Indeed, any dissenting voice against government policy could be muzzled and snuffed out under these provisions. How can we be a beacon of freedom to the world if we practice Soviet-style government ourselves?

The bottom line is that the outlandishly unconstitutional powers above don’t catch terrorists. All they do is violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans, and create a federal monster that only Orwell could have imagined. If Congress really wants to safeguard our nation, it should do something about the 500,000 illegal, undocumented, and potentially terrorist aliens that flood through our borders every year. Congress should not create a prison-like police state in the land of the free.

“Our goal is not to gut the Patriot Act,” said Barr. “PRCB is seeking modest changes to only a few extreme sections of the law.”

American Conservative Union chairman David Keene added: “There are few issues more important on the congressional agenda in 2005 than the Patriot Act. What is at stake is Americans’ Fourth Amendment freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.”

There are very powerful forces, namely the Justice Department and the White House, that want to make these extreme provisions permanent. Every American needs to voice their objection to make certain that this doesn’t happen. This battle is being fought right now and we have no time to lose.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who are willing to trade freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security.” We must never let the terrorists win.

Peyton Knight is executive director of the American Policy Center. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.