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6/14/06

Mind Shadows      Innocence, Civil Rights, & False Dichotomies: The Patriot Act

As passed by the United States Congress, Section 215 of the Patriot Act uses Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to check up on any American citizen. How? By enabling the FBI to do so "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." The FBI director can seek a citizen's records from bookstores and libraries--books a person has bought or read, even activities on a library's computer. Librarians, clerks, and others are gag-ordered to prevent disclosing they have been ordered to produce such documents. In short, the Patriot Act allows that librarians and book stores must reveal all books you borrowed or bought, and it should remind you not to innocently enjoy web-surfing in libraries.

Things don't end there. In further efforts to detect terrorists, calls foreign and domestic are eavesdropped by the government. The Bush administration is defending its wiretapping of phone calls without a warrant. This despite the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, designed to end years of routine wiretapping of American citizens who had attracted official attention by opposing the war in Vietnam. The express purpose of the act was to limit what presidents could ask intelligence organizations to do.

If polled, the average American might say, "Hey, that's okay if it stops terrorists. After all, it's no skin off my butt. I'm innocent of any wrong doing."

But is it really okay? Is the citizen justified in being complacent? More

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