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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Proposals to expand the Patriot Act limit freedom

On Friday, Attorney General John Ashcroft stopped in Minneapolis to defend the USA Patriot Act and lobby for further expansion of the Justice Department’s investigative authority. Many are dubbing these recent Bush administration proposals Patriot Act II.

The Patriot Act already gives the government increased powers to spy on citizens and conduct secret investigations. Considering that more than 160 cities passed ordinances protesting the act and bipartisan coalitions are working diligently to weaken it, we hope Ashcroft is fighting a losing battle. As attempts to repeal the original Patriot Act gain momentum, President George W. Bush’s latest attacks on civil liberties should also be resisted.

Just as the original act weakened judicial overview, Bush’s recent proposals also attempt to upset our country’s system of checks and balances.

One proposal calls for elimination of grand jury review of search and seizure requests, which would allow federal agents access to private records and the ability to demand testimony. This measure has the potential to be abused by vigilante agents and vindictive power elites.

Another Bush proposal decreases the burden of proof for setting bail, potentially allowing imprisonment with less evidence.

The president also called for using the death penalty against people with connections to terrorism, such as financing. This proposal is dangerous because the definitions of terrorism and what constitutes a connection to it are overly broad and vague. Conceivably, the new measures would not only allow federal agents to search a residence on their own initiative and imprison a suspect with little or no evidence, but that suspect could be sentenced to death as well.

Bush’s proposals remove safeguard powers from the courts. Past grabs for power, from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon, and actions carried out secretly by the government, had tremendous potential to suppress unpopular viewpoints and trample innocent individuals.

Bush should realize this country was founded on freedoms made possible by our civil liberties, and these freedoms should not be subverted in the name of fighting terrorism.

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