Tags: Patriot | Act | Divides | GOP

Patriot Act Divides GOP

Wednesday, 01 September 2004 12:00 AM

John Sununu, Sr., who served under the first President Bush, told the group that in hurriedly enacting the legislation shortly after 9/11, Congress failed to create an "alternative path," in case parts pf the law were found to be defective. "There was no mechanism for redress," he complained.

"We know that in a time of crisis, we go from emphasizing individual liberties to prioritizing national safety. Since everyone knew we were cutting new ground with the Patriot Act," the former governor of New Hampshire said, "we should have included an alternative."

Unfortunately, Sununu added, the media is so unforgiving of the least little mistake that the policy-makers just left an imperfect document more less "in limbo" because "it is unpopular to correct it. That, Sununu believes, was "political timidity."

The debate - held in connection with the GOP convention - was sponsored by the American Conservative Union and the Arab American Institute.

Former Gongressman Bob Barr expressed regret that in the rush to "do something" after 9/11, he himself had voted for the Patriot Act, which he now believes is a threat to individual and civil liberties.

It is a classic example, he said, of the use of "fear [to] justify substantive undermining of our Bill of Rights."

"The essence of the Fourth Amendment," the Georgian added," is the underpinning of privacy." He complained about the law's "sneak and peak" provision, which allows law enforcement to break into people's private quarters and search the premises without any notification to them.

But Barbara Comstock, a former Justice Department official, noted that a judge has to be involved in a measure involving breach of privacy.

Barr, however, argued that the Privacy Act weakened that provision and mandated, in effect, that the judge merely "rubber stamp" the law enforcement request.

ATR President Grover Norquist said the problem is not with the Bush administration, but with what might happen if Hillary Clinton (for example) becomes president someday.

Comstock replied that it is impossible to pass a law that will prevent bad people from disregarding the law. She cited the Clinton administration scandals. The onetime Capitol Hill investigator also said that the Patriot Act broke down the wall of separation that had been imposed on intelligence agencies.

She went onto relate how in the 90's a U.S. Attorney in New York had searched around the world for useful information on Osama bin Laden, but the law then forbade any check with an FBI office "right across the street" where useful leads in bin Laden could have been obtaned.

Comstock recalled that when the Patriot Act was being considered on Capitol Hill, senators laughed when she suggested they actually read the bill. To which Barr replied that was not unusual because many senators don't understand what is involved in oversight, "and don't care about it."

106-102

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John Sununu, Sr., who served under the first President Bush, told the group that in hurriedly enacting the legislation shortly after 9/11, Congress failed to create an "alternative path," in case parts pf the law were found to be defective. "There was no mechanism for...
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2004-00-01
Wednesday, 01 September 2004 12:00 AM
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