Limitations on Police Power Shouldn't Be a Partisan Issue
THE PATRIOT ACT
Where are the abuses?
The Nov. 22 commentary “The erosion of freedom” is yet another example of how liberal hysteria is conspicuously light on details.
While the Patriot Act may allow for potential abuses of power, flaws undoubtedly to be fine-tuned over time, the “erosion of freedom” it may foster absolutely pales in comparison to the freedom it is designed to protect in the new age of global terrorism.
I have yet to read of one incident of infringement of any private citizen’s rights as a direct result of the Patriot Act — nor does this commentary point out any, either.
While I’m a firm believer in the Fourth Amendment, I also want our law enforcement to have the legal tools necessary, unfettered by restrictions to counter liberals’ paranoid fixation on “fascism,” in order to combat the threat that terrorism has on all our freedoms.
I have enough trust in our free democratic society and the coequal branches of government that we won’t evolve into a sinister “police state,” as ominously predicted by this commentary.
CHRIS GARDNER, MINNEAPOLIS
Two things strike me in this letter. The first is his “I have yet to read of one incident of infringement of any private citizen’s rights as a direct result of the Patriot Act….” line. It’s just odd. A simple Googling of “patriot act abuses” comes up with almost 3 million hits, many of them pretty extensive descriptions of Patriot Act abuses. Now, he could decide that none of them are abuses. He could choose not to believe any of them are true. He could choose to believe, as he seems to, that it’s all in some liberal fantasy. But to simply not even bother reading about them…isn’t he just admitting that he’s not qualified to have an opinion on the matter? (There’s also that “direct result” weaseling, which I’m not sure what to make of either. Are infringements that are an indirect result of the Patriot Act somehow better?)
I suppose that’s just being petty, though.
The more important thing that strikes me is how partisan he is. He writes about “liberal hysteria” and “liberals’ paranoid fixation on ‘fascism.'” In his last paragraph, he writes about his trust in government.
Most laws don’t matter when we all trust each other. Contracts are rarely if ever looked at if the parties trust each other. The whole point of laws and contracts is to protect us when the parties don’t trust each other. It’s not enough that this guy, and everyone else with this opinion, trusts the Bush government to judiciously balance his rights with the need to fight global terrorism. This guy has to believe that when the Democrats are in power that his rights are just as protected: that he is just as secure against police and government abuse.
Because that’s how you should think about laws, contracts, and government power. When reading through a contract, don’t think about how much you like the other person who’s signing it; imagine how the contract will protect you if you become enemies. When thinking about a law, imagine how it will protect you when your worst nightmare — Hillary Clinton as President, Janet Reno as Attorney General, Howard Dean as something-or-other, and a Democratic Senate and House — is in power.
Laws and contracts are not written for one political party, or for one side. They’re written for everybody. History teaches us this lesson again and again. In the United States, the Bill of Rights was opposed on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary; the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 proved that it was, only nine years later.
It makes no sense to me that this is a partisan issue.