Has the United States become a police state? It seems rather ironic to me that as we have the continual assaults on our Second Amendment rights, an increasing number of agencies, bureaus and task forces at all levels of government are armed and wield police powers. Pick any three-letter agency within the federal bureaucracy, and you will find a division or department that holds an investigative portfolio and is armed. If you watch any of the cop shows on television, you’ll note that a common theme is the jurisdictional tension between various police agencies when they encounter a crime. Perhaps, that little tidbit may be suggesting that there are too many police agencies stumbling over one another in their aggressive attempts to hold the American people in line.
Tuesday the Patriot Act came to the House of Representative’s floor for a short-term renewal and failed. It didn’t fall because Members of the Congress had a change of heart about the invasive nature of some of the more onerous portions of that legislation. No, it failed because the Republican Whip team cannot count. The historic tension between security and liberty, safety and freedom, is starkly represented in the Patriot Act. The powers in the Act are considered above and beyond necessary tools for traditional police work during “normal” times. The difficulty arises when defining or identifying extraordinary conditions that demand excessive power for all the enforcement agencies. As long as government has the power to declare emergencies and define when additional police action is necessary, the people’s liberty will be at risk.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to secure “any tangible thing” that may be relevant to an investigation of terrorism. They are allowed to do so even if there is no link between the “tangible” object and potential terrorists or terrorist actions. Do you own a firearm? Are you contemplating an act of terrorism? Doesn’t matter. Theoretically they can seize your weapon under the pretense that you may consider becoming a terrorist at some point in the future. This section is ripe for abuse.
There are several other provisions of the Act that can be interpreted as threats to citizens’ rights. The fact that there is not an overwhelming collection of data that suggests those provisions have been corrupted does not prevent the potential for abuse. Power does not respect a vacuum, and people who hold power will be tempted to use it…for good purposes, they believe. Perhaps you share my concern about the political class and the bureaucracy that they have created: I may like them, I may even admire them, but no way in hell do I trust them to do what is right for my family and me. I do not trust their motives, their instincts or their judgments. We all know someone who when placed in a position of power, feels compelled to “lord” it over everyone in his sphere of operation. Multiply that attitude by the thousands and you have the bureaucrats and politicians running throughout the nation trying to protect us from ourselves. Who, pray tell, will protect us from them?
Republican inefficiency has given us an opportunity to preserve some small element of freedom. If they continue to insist that the Patriot Act is necessary for protecting the nation from terrorism, then we have been given a second bite of the apple to minimize its most odious abuses. No government agency at any level should be given carte blanche to harass the citizens of our country. No agency should be awarded unlimited powers to arbitrarily redefine what constitutes a threat. No agency should have the unconstitutional authority to confiscate my “tangible thing.”
This column was titled “Please State” because at the present time our law enforcement agencies sometimes get a warrant before their actions. In some cases the agents will knock on your door before crashing through it. The issues become more problematic when you’re driving, however, because the rules that allow for you to be stopped are less concrete. Just hang on to your “tangible thing.”
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