Why this question?
June 8, 2004
As part of an effort to re-evaluate the Patriot Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft testifies Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
… it is worth quoting the words of a senator speaking before one of our early congresses. On June 21, 1798, the last day of the congressional debates on the Alien and Sedition Acts, Senator Edward Livingston spoke the following words to the Senate.
“If we are ready to violate the Constitution, will the people submit to our unauthorized acts? Sir, they ought not to submit; they would deserve the chains that these measures are forging for them. The country will swarm with informers, spies, delators, and all the odious reptile tribe that breed in the sunshine of despotic power … The hours of the most unsuspected confidence, the intimacies of friendship, or the recesses of domestic retirement, afford no security. The companion whom you trust, the friend in whom you must confide, the domestic who waits in your chamber, are all tempted to betray your imprudent and unguarded follies; to misrepresent your words; to convey them, distorted by calumny, to the secret tribunal where jealousy presides – where fear officiates as accuser, and suspicion is the only evidence that is heard … Do not let us be told that we are to excite a fervor against a foreign aggression to establish a tyranny at home; that like the arch traitor we cry “Hail Columbia” at the moment we are betraying her to destruction; that we sing “Happy Land,” when we are plunging it in ruin and disgrace; and that we are absurd enough to call ourselves free and enlightened while we advocate principles that would have disgraced the age of Gothic barbarity.”
The USA Patriot Act returns us to the age of Gothic barbarity. This Act does not belong in a democracy. It should be repealed. If it is not repealed, it should be amended to remove those provisions, which violate the civil rights of citizens and immigrants.
Jennifer Van Bergen holds a law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, is an adjunct faculty member at the New School for Social Research in New York, and is a member of the Board of the ACLU Broward County, Florida Chapter.