Following the gruesome and deadly terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress saw the urgent need to take action. The plan it came up with was entitled the USA Patriot Act. The Patriot Act has become perhaps the most widely misunderstood and hated legislation in years. The American Civil Liberties Union has been ranting and raving about how it will erode our civil liberties and how it will usher in an era of a police state. My question is, “Where is Big Brother?” Much of the hysteria and liberal whining is due to the fact that a vast majority of Americans have very little idea what the Patriot Act actually is. Despite all of the hysteria conjured up by the liberals there has been no evidence of the Patriot Act eroding anyone’s rights. We have heard how it will lead to a massive invasion of our privacy; we have heard how federal agents will march into libraries demanding to see what little Johnny is reading; we have heard about how our homes will be searched without our knowledge. None of this has happened, nor is it allowed to happen under the Patriot Act. Let’s look at a few of these baseless attacks on the act.

The ACLU has been clamoring for almost two years now about how wrong it is that the government can impede our first amendment rights by walking into a library and getting a list of everything we have read. Maybe instead of whining for two years, someone at the ACLU should have actually read the Patriot Act. The section they point to that would allow this “invasion of our privacy” is Section 215. Section 215 allows the FBI, with and only with a court order, to require the library to turn over documents “for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” The act goes on to say, “An investigation conducted under this section shall not be conducted of a United States person solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” This text is taken directly from the Patriot Act. So, not only does the act not allow the FBI to infringe upon our First Amendment rights, it also expressly prohibits them from doing so. Yep, that sounds like Big Brother to me.

The second section that is whined about most loudly is Section 213. Section 213 allows the FBI to execute a search warrant without notifying the person whose property is being searched. Liberals leap at this as a violation of our right to privacy. Unfortunately, the left pretty much strikes out on this one. The practice of delaying notification of a search warrant was around long before the Patriot Act. It has been used to fight organized crime and drug dealing since the mid ’70s. The Supreme Court affirmed the practice in 1979 in the case Dalia v. United States. The Court held that “covert entries are constitutional in some circumstances, at least if they are made pursuant to a warrant.” The Patriot Act did not start the practice of delaying notification; it simply codified the procedure by which it is acceptable. If anything, this makes the practice harder to abuse. There is now a clear procedure for when it is appropriate and when it is not.

In the two years since the Patriot Act passed, there have been roughly 1,200 cases of alleged abuse. Of those 1,200 exactly 34 have been deemed credible by the Department of Justice. Upon the completion of investigations of those 34 “credible allegations” exactly zero were found to pertain to the Patriot Act. So, in the two years since the bill’s passage there have been exactly zero reported abuses. Zero. Where then do the liberals find a basis for their claims? We have seen that the text of the act does not allow for substantiation of their accusations, and certainly the data, since the law’s inception, do not support their claims. So on what basis do they complain and scream and yell and try to scare Americans? The answer is simple. There is no basis for their ranting and raving. The reason they stick to vague hypotheticals is that they have no real evidence at which to point. Nothing has happened to support their argument and thus they are left to play the “what if” game. Well I have a “what if” for them. What if these security measures are not taken? Will there be a repeat of Sept. 11? Will the outcome be worse? What if we do not equip law enforcement with the tools they need to fight terrorists living within our borders?

The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were a tragedy of unimaginable magnitude. Since that fateful day we have built many memorials and we have taken part in countless ceremonies to honor those who so bravely perished in the attacks. But, to borrow words from John Ashcroft, “our final tribute to the dead of September 11th must be to fulfill our responsibility to defend the living. Our greatest memorial to those who have passed must be to protect the lives and liberties of those yet to come.” The Patriot Act allows us to do just that.

Tom Armstrong is a freshman in the College. He is the deputy director of communications for the Georgetown College Republicans.

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