SENATOR FUMO REMARKS ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE, JUNE 21, 2005, CONCERNING HOW THE USA PATRIOT ACT IS BEING USED TO UNDERMINE THE FREEDOM GUARANTEED IN THE BILL OF RIGHTS TO ALL AMERICANS:
Following the terrorist attacks against our country on September 11, 2001, a wave of patriotic feeling unlike any we had seen in generations swept over America.
Almost universally, we put our political differences and our partisanship aside, we rallied behind the leaders of our nation, and we vowed to do what ever was necessary to protect our country from future attacks.
Unfortunately, there were those who took advantage of that unity and of that patriotism, to undermine the principles of freedom and democracy for which America stands. George W. Bush and a few high-ranking members of his administration, allied with a small handful of zealots in the U.S. Congress, conspired to trample on the Bill of Rights, and destroy the checks and balances contained in our Constitution.
They passed something called the USA Patriot Act. Certainly there were some things in the legislation that are good, that are necessary, and that will make America stronger in the face of terrorism.
There are other parts, however, that take away some important rights from all Americans, not just terrorists. Most members of Congress did not have a chance to read the bill they voted upon. They had seen a version of the bill that was agreed upon by congressional conservatives and liberals, by the likes of Republican Bob Barr of Georgia and Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts. But at the 11th hour, the bill was amended with language supplied by Attorney General John Ashcroft, including many provisions that Congress had rejected prior to September 11. Many of these provisions were simply part of Ashcroft’s pre-9-11 agenda. They had nothing to do with fighting terrorism and everything to do with weakening the Bill of Rights by enhancing the power of law enforcement at the expense of individual liberty. Many of the people in Congress who voted for the Act did so not out of Patriotism, but out of fear, which is exactly what the terrorists wanted – fear that if they opposed this bill in the weeks immediately following September 11, they would be branded unpatriotic.
That is why notable conservatives, such as former congressman Barr, Grover Norquist and Paul Weyrich, have joined with the ACLU in a group called Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances. They understand that there is much in this bill that can fairly be called un-American, at least by the standards of freedom that real patriotic Americans hold dear.
At least by my understanding of the word Patriot in the American tradition, it is not patriotic to give government the right to obtain secret search warrants that allow authorities to break into homes or offices, search people’s belongings, view the contents of their files or computers, take photographs, and not even tell the person they have been searched. These are the so-called “sneak and peak” provisions of the Patriot Act.
It is not patriotic to allow the government to seize library, medical, travel and other personal information of any American citizen, not just suspected terrorists.
It is not patriotic to allow the government to hold people for indefinite periods of time without charging them with a crime.
It is not patriotic to allow the government to issue secret subpoenas without probable cause.
It is not patriotic to allow the federal government to infiltrate legal political organizations that have no connection to terrorism.
It is not patriotic to allow the federal government to halt legal political protests.
These provisions don’t sound patriotic to me. They don’t even sound American. They sound to me more like the abuses of King George against which our founding fathers rebelled in the American Revolution. They sound like the kinds of things the Chinese rebelled against in Tiananmen Square. They sound like the kinds of abuses that the North Korean people endure now under their oppressive regime. Maybe that’s what we are seeing here -- an attempt to install a new King George in America by people who are using the war on terror to justify a vast expansion of government powers.
I wonder how Republicans would have liked it if President Bill Clinton had exercised these powers, or if someday a president Hillary Clinton holds them.
Well, I don’t want a president Clinton to have that power. I don’t want a president Bush to have that power. I just want my rights back. I want them back for everyone in America.
Just as many things in the Patriot Act had nothing to do with 9-11, we are now at war in a country that had nothing to do with 9-11. Today, young American men and women are fighting and dying in Iraq. I would like to pay tribute now to two soldiers from our state, who gave their lives there.
Sergeant 1st Class Paul D. Karpowich, 30, of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania was among thirteen soldiers who died December 21 in Mosul, when their dining facility was attacked. Sergeant Karpowich was assigned to the Army Reserve's 2nd Battalion, 390th Infantry Regiment.
Sergeant Michael A. Marzano, 28, of Greenville, Pennsylvania, died May 7 in an explosion caused by a suicide vehicle carrying an improvised explosive device, while he was participating in combat operations in Hadithah. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
They are among the now 1,723 American soldiers who have died in Iraq. Another 6,442 have been wounded too seriously to return to action.
They died in a war based upon inaccurate information, and based on a dubious and fluid premise. After being told it was a war to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction, then being told that it was a war to topple a brutal dictator, we are now told that it is a war to spread the cause of freedom in the Middle East.
But, if indeed terrorists are people who “hate freedom” the way George W. Bush explains it to us, that means the Patriot Act is handing them a victory. It takes away American freedom, and that means the terrorists are winning, not losing. If we have to shred the Bill of Rights in order to fight the war on terror, then the outcome will be worse than a pyrrhic victory, it will be an outright defeat for the cause of freedom in America.
Last week, the U. S. House of Representatives, against the wishes of George W. Bush, voted to roll back the so-called “library provision” of the Patriot Act that permits the government to snoop through the personal information of any American at libraries.
But we must be careful that Congress might do a few minor fixes while leaving the many onerous provisions of the Act in place. I plan to have more to say about that next week.
When I first started these weekly talks with the citizen of the Commonwealth, I never thought that I would still be reading off the names of the recent dead from Pennsylvania even now. A life is a precious thing to waste. Soon Pennsylvania will be sending many more of its National Guard members to Iraq. When will it end?
And by the way George, where is Osama? Now according to your CIA director, we might actually know where he is, but we can’t go get him because we have to respect the sovereignty of other nations. Well, that seems to be a new concept for the Bush administration.
Thank you, Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo