It amazes me that while we are helping free the Iraqi people from a cruel regime, the Bush administration and several prominent Republicans are limiting our freedoms at home.

After September 11, Congress and the president signed the USA Patriot Act into law. This temporary act allows the government freer range to investigate and invade one’s personal life and was set to expire in 2005. While the Republican Party and George W. Bush never fail to surprise me as to how much they can belittle the common man, the very notion of taking away our privacy to the extent of this law is abominable.

The recent controversy began after the U.S. Senator from my home state, Orrin Hatch, Republican from Utah, proposed and then retracted an amendment to the budget bill to make the USA Patriot Act permanent. Fortunately for our civil rights, Hatch withdrew the amendment after several Democrats complained. Such actions by the majority party are serious and we need to be alert.

But why should we pay attention? The reason is, the USA Patriot Act has been identified as the number one threat to our civil liberties in our entire history.

The USA Patriot Act destroys decades of protections given to the people of the United States since the civil rights movement. Since the days of government wiretaps of Martin Luther King, Jr., our rights have actually been strengthened.

So, obviously, I wonder if the Republican Party has correctly identified that our freedoms are the major threat to our security. After all, if they could have found out the books I read and followed me to my religious and political meetings – maybe attacks on our soil would never have happened. Most of this sounds ridiculous, but the USA Patriot Act is a threat to our privacy in ways we don’t even realize.

Across America, the reaction to the USA Patriot Act is similar. From the liberal American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Eagle Forum, people and organizations are calling for an end to the act. Daily, librarians are destroying records of books checked out and some cities have ordered their employees to not cooperate with the Justice Department if they invoke the act.

These acts are for our protection. There is no need for the government to be tracking our every move, especially in our religious organizations, political groups or other organizations.

Actions like these must have our founding fathers rolling in their graves. How low has our nation stooped to give up the precious freedoms we have long cherished and are fighting for in order for a little more security?

Thomas Jefferson once remarked, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

It is amazing how true he was. I always felt that Bush made a mistake when he said, “There ought to be limits to freedom.” Now I think we are beginning to see what he meant.

The very day that our freedoms are the threat to our security is a sad day. Write your representative or senator and tell them that the USA Patriot Act must expire. We are a nation running in fear with Orange Alerts and duct tape meant to help give us a new feeling of security.

I’d rather live in the pre-September 11 world with insecurity than the “safe” feeling George W. Bush is giving us now.

Gifford can be reached at jgifford@campustimes.org.



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