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War on the Constitution: anti-terrorism bill passes Congress

Rammed through a Congress barely operating under anthrax scares, the Administration has pushed through a host of increased government powers, many of which have little to do with terrorism.
On October 25, the US Senate passed a draconian anti-terrorism bill by a vote of 98-1. With passage of an identical bill by the House on October 24, the bill is headed to the President. The bill, known as the USA PATRIOT act, "goes light years beyond what is necessary to combat terrorism", according to the ACLU. The legislation would allow 'sneak and peek' secret searches, open educational, medical, and financial records to the FBI with no warrant, allows the CIA to spy on Americans, and gives the Attorney General vast powers to declare domestic groups 'terrorists' under an extremely broad definition that may criminalize dissent. Attorney General Ashcroft has already signaled his desire to launch a massive law-and-order campaign, threatening to "issue guidance to each of our 94 U.S. Attorney's Offices and 56 FBI field offices directing them to begin immediately implementing this sweeping legislation." This kind of rhetoric was used by J. Edgar Hoover, who routinely violated constitutional rights and used police powers for political ends.
The legislation was rammed through the Congress; many members, shut out of their offices by anthrax scares, had not read it. The lone dissenter was Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. "There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state it would be easier to catch terrorists," Senator Feingold said. "That country would not be America." Minnesota's Paul Wellstone voted in favor of the legislation.
Both this legislation and the fact that this legislation was pushed while Congress was crippled show a complete disregard for the democratic political process. President Bush is expected to sign this legislation today.
 
 

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