The Paducah Sun
With a decisive vote in favor of renewing the major provisions of the Patriot Act, Congress affirmed that the law has played a key role in protecting Americans from terrorist attacks.
President Bush signed the renewal of the Patriot Act March 9, one day before 16 sections of the old law were set to expire. At the signing ceremony, Bush said, Its a piece of legislation thats vital to win the war on terror and protect the American people.
Despite a prolonged dispute over whether some sections of the law threatened the civil liberties of Americans, most members of Congress agreed with the president that the legislation is a powerful and constitutionally legitimate weapon in the war on terrorism. The Senate voted 89-10 in favor of renewal. The House passed the legislation 280-138.
Enacted in the aftermath of 9-11, the Patriot Act was intended to break down walls between law enforcement and national security agencies and give federal authorities new tools to combat the threat posed by foreign terrorists operating in the United States. The most important provisions of the law were designed to close holes in national security exploited by the 9-11 hijackers.
Clearly the Patriot Act has significantly strengthened the nations defenses against terrorism. The most obvious evidence is that Islamic extremists have been unable to mount another attack on U.S. soil.
Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants in the al-Qaida network have repeatedly threatened to carry out more attacks against targets in the U.S., but no serious terrorist incidents have occurred since 9-11. ...
Some of the Patriot Acts critics have raised important questions about the laws expansion of law enforcement power. The president and Congress must be careful to balance the need to stop terrorists against the possibility that overzealous agents will use the laws provisions to infringe on the civil liberties of Americans. ...
When the Patriot Act was proposed in 2001, Republican leaders in the House attached the sunset provisions to the bill, thereby ensuring that Congress would review the laws impact after the initial anger and fear caused by the 9-11 attacks had subsided.
Both the House and the Senate thoroughly ventilated concerns about civil liberties, and changes were made to head off potential abuses of the laws search-and-seizure provisions.
The bipartisan compromise that resulted from the long-running debate assured that the bill would receive a strong endorsement from Congress.
It should be noted that no documented cases involving violations of civil liberties were discovered during congressional hearings.
Congress needed to examine indeed, it had a duty to examine whether the Patriot Act has caused an erosion of civil liberties.
Ultimately, responsible leaders in both parties concluded that the law has protected Americans without compromising their rights under the Constitution.