Thursday, June 16, 2005

Finding the balance

Between civil liberties and security, that is. I was happy to learn that the House of Representatives, an infamously fickle body, has been able to think more clearly recently about the whole problem of protecting a democracy -- from internal as well as external threats. Yesterday members blocked that controversial provision of the Patriot Act that would allow the FBI free and unjustified access to information about what people read in libraries. Reading, of course, and the pursuit and transmission of knowledge generally, is foundational for an empowered citizenry. In other words, democracy depends on it. That's one side of the question. The other side concerns the need to identify terrorists before they launch an attack. That is pretty darn important too. But the FBI can get the information they need on suspects; nothing is stopping them -- all they have to do is show cause, as the US Constitution normally has law enforcement work. This particular provision of the Patriot Act would unreasonably increase the power of government at the expense of American democracy and Americans themselves. It is a shame that President Bush is using the false spectre of terrorists run amok to suggest that, without this provision, libraries will become "a haven for terrorists." Really? Libraries? Iraq is certainly a haven for terrorists, thanks to the administration's failure to plan an occupation strategy sooner than a couple of weeks before the invasion; but I don't think we have to worry about the Nancy Drew section. Praise to the 38 Republican Representatives who voted for common sense and country.

5 Comments:

Blogger Meredith said...

Yes indeed! I always refer to this piece of legislation as the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, just to remind myself that in fact an acronym is just an acronym. I don't see how it's patriotic for the nation to commit civil-liberties hara kiri!

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