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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Concerns over the Patriot Act: Exaggerations or well-founded warnings? (Jones)

By Jasyn Jones

One thing has become apparent over the last two years-the statements of the opponents of the USA Patriot Act are long on hysteria and hyperbole, and short on details or evidence. The opponents cite no sections of the law to support their claims. They refuse to identify plausible instances of abuse or potential abuse. They supply no proof that the act violates civil liberties, other than factually incorrect statements interspersed with panic-ridden rhetoric. “Be afraid, be VERY afraid!” is their motto.

One claim often advanced is that vast and sweeping warrants can be obtained just by mentioning the word terrorism to a federal judge. This is absolute drivel.

In reality, all requests for Patriot Act-related search warrants and wiretaps must be placed before the seven circuit court justices sitting on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The jurisdiction of this court is lawful, is based on long standing precedents, and does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The statement that such search warrants do not have to be based on probable cause is another falsehood. In order to secure such warrants, the U.S. Department of Justice must show, to the satisfaction of the FISC, that there is probable cause to believe that the surveillance target (who must be a non citizen) is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. The level of proof required before U.S. citizens can be the target of FISA surveillance is far higher. Such warrants are not granted lightly.

Both of the above facts directly contradict the claims of the act’s opponents. They are public knowledge, easily verifiable by a 30-second search on the Web. That so few of the opponents of the act have bothered to do so speaks ill of both their intentions and their honesty.

The act’s opponents rely on scare tactics and wild claims which, no matter their sincerity, are founded in a trifecta of foolish emotions: ignorance, fear and hysteria. Such incendiary rhetoric, especially in a time of war, is unbecoming.

It is a different time we live in, and a different war we fight. In previous wars we had a direct, obvious and easily identified enemy.

Terrorism is a nebulous foe. Terrorists are organized into a network of isolated cells, small groups whose members’ identities are unknown to most of their allies. Terrorists exchange information, resources and personnel, working in a twilight world of secret e mails and phone conversations. They travel between nations along well established smuggling routes.

Terrorists know how to infiltrate democratic societies, how to locate weaknesses (such as “student visas”) and how to use our strengths against us. As Sept. 11 showed, these techniques can be devastatingly effective.

Unfortunately for the wishful dreams of the vociferous left, terrorist infiltrators do not wear signs identifying themselves. We have to investigate suspected terrorists and place them under surveillance, trace their calls and e-mails, find out who they talk to and for how long and why. Identifying agents of terror is a difficult task for which the army and police are unsuited. This war, in order to be successful, depends on the techniques of counterintelligence, the same techniques used against KGB spies during the Cold War.

Only through these techniques can we identify other suspects. We have to have the ability to monitor suspected terrorists without their knowing-if they knew they were being watched, they would not lead us to other terrorists.

Enemies of the Patriot Act claim that its enactment was motivated by fear and paranoia. The terrorists brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center, narrowly missed the Pentagon and shredded 3,000 innocent people. (Apparently, mentioning this undeniable fact constitutes “fear mongering.”)

Because of the Patriot Act, the government has convicted 23 individuals of financing terror, has frozen $124 million in al-Qaida assets and has obtained 100 convictions or guilty pleas for terrorist related activities.

Which is more paranoid, to believe that al-Qaida will strike again, or that the justice department is busy creating an American dictatorship? Opponents of the act have no legal basis for their claims, no factual basis for their claims and nothing to offer except fear and paranoia.

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