USA Patriot Act

November 1, 2003

Clark04

I believe that law enforcement should have access to all necessary tools to deal with the problems of terrorism, which is why I’m calling for an immediate $40 billion investment in homeland security. But I don’t believe that we can win a war on terror if we give up the essence of who we are as Americans. That’s why I think that Congress should fully review the so-called USA PATRIOT Act – and repeal the provisions that go too far.

The USA PATRIOT Act was jammed through Congress in a matter of weeks, when the country was still in shock from the horrific attacks of September 11th. It wasn’t carefully drafted and it wasn’t fully debated. More troubling is that, in just two years, the Act has grown the tentacles that many feared. Last month, a Justice Department report admitted that the John Ashcroft has actually expanded the substantial reach of the Act, using it to snoop in secrecy for evidence of crimes that have nothing to do with terrorism.

Now Ashcroft is proposing the PROTECT Act. Among other curtailments, the proposed bill all but forbids prosecutors from agreeing to downward departures from the rigid federal sentencing guidelines, increasing the chance that individual punishments won’t actually fit individual crimes. It also instructs prosecutors to report judges that order departures from sentencing guidelines – creating the very real possibility that judges will be put on a DOJ blacklist.

I am concerned that the USA PATRIOT Act goes too far in expanding the authority of government investigators, and that it does so without sufficient oversight. We need to make sure that we are taking responsible measures to meet the needs of the time. That’s why I’ll call on Congress to fully review each provision of the Act, study the ways in which each has been used in practice, and eliminate those provisions that unduly threaten our civil liberties.

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