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Registered: 05/10/02
Posts: 901
Loc: U.S.S.A.
A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act
    #1945585 - 09/23/03 06:29 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

The following remarks were delivered by William Rivers Pitt at a Town Hall meeting in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, September 16. The meeting was called on the eve of an historic vote; the capitol city of Texas is very near to joining hundreds of other American communities in passing a resolution that repudiates the Patriot Act. (source)

I have listened to the defenses of the Patriot Act offered tonight. The essence of the defenses, the essence of the rebuttals to our reservations and complaints, is "Trust us. We're the government. We're the constitutional scholars. Trust us."

I've heard that before.

There are tons of mass destruction weapons in Iraq. Trust us. There are al Qaeda terrorists all over Iraq. Trust us. September 11 happened because of enemies who hate our freedoms. Trust us.

With all due respect, I say hell no. The one thing this government's behavior has not created is trust.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have come here today to appeal to your patriotism. We are all patriots here, every one of us. Let no one deny that or doubt that.

What are our duties as patriots? Is one a patriot if they fly the flag, to stand for the national anthem? Yes?and no. One may do these things and be filled with love of country, but if that is all you do, then you have not done enough. In this time, and in this place, and with all that is happening in this country and around the world, the duties of a patriot go far, far, far beyond flying the flag.

The duty of a patriot in this time and place is to ask questions, to demand answers, to understand where our nation is headed and why. If the answers you get do not suit you, or if they frighten you, or if they anger you, it is your duty as a patriot to dissent. Freedom does not begin with blind acceptance and with a flag. Freedom begins when you say 'No.'

That is how our freedom began 227 years ago. We said 'No.' Now, we must talk, and listen, and ask questions, and understand. If we do not like where we find ourselves, we must once again say 'No' with roaring voice, and without fear.

So let us, as patriots, speak tonight about the Patriot Act. The full name is the USA Patriot Anti-Terror Act, passed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Interestingly, and disturbingly, the document was written long before those attacks ever took place. If you believe the advertising, the Patriot Act serves us all by defending us against terrorist attacks, by casting a fine net to snare those who mean to do us harm. The Act itself is a huge sheaf of paper, written in that dense legalese so common to legislation. Attorney General John Ashcroft has been on a tour of American cities in the last month touting the Act before police organizations. He believes it is a vital and necessary weapon against terrorism.

I am not going to stand up here today and try to claim that the events of September 11 do not require a response from the American legal system. That would be patently absurd. One of the cruelest ironies of that day is that the terrorists used our greatest American strength against us. They used our freedom of movement against us. They came here, rented cars, got hotels, got on airplanes, and dealt us a mighty blow. Because we are free to go where we wish and stay where we wish, we were open to their trauma.

But I must now ask you my first question of the night, one I will repeat as we go on. What price security? How much can we give up before we become a country that is not America?

At bottom, at the end of the day, and when all the shouting and chest-beating is over, America is an idea. You can take all of our roads, our cities, our crops, our people, our armies - you can take all that away, and the idea that is America will still be there as pure and great as anything conceived by the human mind. What is that idea? The idea is simple and stupendous simultaneously.

The idea that is America says you can go where you want, say what you want, think what you want, spend what and where you want, pray to whomever you want, or not pray at all, and the government cannot restrict your doing this unless you are demonstrably causing harm to a fellow citizen. Simple?and amazing. The document says we are gifted the unalienable right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The substance of those rights are the freedoms I have listed, and all the others I have not named. That is the idea that is America. We are unique in all the world to have such concepts be an essential part of our founding.

If you murder the idea that is America, you have murdered America itself. You can keep all of our roads, our cities, our crops, our people, our armies - you can keep all that, but if you murder the fundamental idea that is America, you have murdered America itself in a way that ten thousand September 11ths could never do. No terrorist can end this country. No terrorist can destroy the ideals we hold dear. Only we can do that, we who are most comforted by that blanket of freedom, and I fear that we have begun to do so with the passage of this thing they call the Patriot Act.

There are hundreds and hundreds of sections to the Patriot Act. My personal favorite is Section 213. Legal scholars have dubbed this the "Sneak and Peek" provision. Section 213 of the Patriot Act gives authority to agents of the Federal government to enter your home, search your belongings, tap your phone, tap your computer so every keystroke and website and email is recorded. They can do this without getting a warrant, and without ever letting you know they were there.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution reads as follows: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

But this is all supposed to be about going after terrorists, right? Why should terrorists have access to the protections of the Fourth Amendment? They key here is the definition of 'terrorist,' and the Patriot Act leaves that definition very, very vague.

Section 802 of the Act creates the federal crime of "domestic terrorism." Among other things, this section states that acts committed within the United States "dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws" can be considered acts of domestic terrorism if they "appear to be intended" to "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion," or "to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." This provision applies to United States citizens, as well as aliens.

Ever been to a protest? A lot of protests are acts intended to attack or throw light upon a particular government policy. According to the nebulous definition of 'domestic terrorism' as espoused by Section 802 of the Patriot Act, such acts of dissent now fall under the definition of terrorism.

Nancy Chang of the Center for Constitutional Rights writes: "Vigorous protest activities, by their very nature, could be construed as acts that 'appear to be intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.' Further, clashes between demonstrators and police officers and acts of civil disobedience - even those that do not result in injuries and are entirely non-violent - could be construed as 'dangerous to human life' and in 'violation of the criminal laws.' Environmental activists, anti-globalization activists, and anti-abortion activists who use direct action to further their political agendas are particularly vulnerable to prosecution as 'domestic terrorists.'"

There is more. Section 411 of the Patriot Act purportedly defines foreign terrorist organizations. However, as the ACLU points out, this provision "permits designation of foreign and domestic groups," since the provision defines these groups as "any political, social or other similar group who publicly endorse acts of terrorism" - which, of course, under the Section 802, could mean lawful protest.

I'll give you one quick example. On December 6, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft stood before Congress to testify about the Patriot Act. In his opening statements, he said, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists -- for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."

Therefore, according to Mr. Ashcroft, if you criticize the Patriot Act you are, under section 411, publicly endorsing terrorist activity by "frightening people with phantoms of lost liberty." If you criticize the Patriot Act publicly, you are also potentially in violation of section 802.

Opportunities for abuse of these broad new powers are immense, and that is the rub. Of course there must be a legal response to the crimes committed against us on September 11. But the Patriot Act goes much, much too far. The Patriot Act asks us to completely surrender that mistrust of government that caused us to make this country in the first place, that mistrust of government that is essential to our standing as free citizens. The Patriot Act asks us to believe that no government official would ever, ever, ever abuse these sweeping powers in the pursuit of a political agenda. Why worry? That's never happened before?

The Patriot Act asks us to throw over the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the constitution, period.

The Patriot Act allows the government to detain, indefinitely and without access to an attorney or a trial by jury, anyone they deem to be a terrorist.

That definition is left to the sole discretion of the federal government, and to John Ashcroft. That definition, as we have already seen, can be applied to citizen and non-citizen alike. It can apply to you, and to me. As we sit here, there are well over 1,000 people sitting in prisons without access to an attorney or a jury trial. There is no time limit on their detention. Some of them may very well be terrorists that mean to do us harm. Many others, however, are people who fit a preconceived notion of what a threatening person may be.

In an Associated Press article from last Sunday, said Dan Dodson, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, said, "Within six months of passing the Patriot Act, the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to stretch the new wiretapping provisions to extend them beyond terror cases. They say they want the Patriot Act to fight terrorism, then, within six months, they are teaching their people how to use it on ordinary citizens."

Clearly, the powers of the Patriot Act are already being abused.

September 11 happened. There must be a response. I submit to you today that the Patriot Act is the wrong response, a dangerous response, a response that wrecks far too much of what makes this country excellent and unique. I submit to you that John Ashcroft, who accused anyone who disagrees with the Patriot Act of aiding terrorists from the well of our Congress, is the wrong man to hand such sweeping powers over to. I submit that we have surrendered to the terrorists with this Act. We have done what they tried to do. We have done what they could never do. We have helped to murder the idea that is America. We have given those attackers the victory they sought on September 11. They never need to come back again. Thanks to the Patriot Act, their work is done.

Thomas Paine once said, "If there is to be trouble, let it be in my day, so my child may be safe." We did not want this trouble, but we've got it. I ask you, here and now, to make trouble for those who would trouble us with this terrible law.

I ask you, here and now, to stand for a better way than this, a way that defends this nation while standing in the required reverence and awe of the ideals that make this country what it is. I am asking you, as patriots, to stand against this Patriot Act.

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination."
-- Mark Twain

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Two inch dick..but it spins!?
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Registered: 11/29/01
Posts: 34,247
Loc: Lost In Space
Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1945621 - 09/23/03 06:39 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

Quite nicely written.

You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for that my dear friend is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. ~ Adrian Rogers

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Offlinethe universe
Harbinger ofEldritch Despair

Registered: 03/10/99
Posts: 1,456
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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1945655 - 09/23/03 06:49 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

How do you go about starting a petition to change a federal law?

"If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the 'Fuck you' signs in the world."- J. D. Salinger

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unintended sideeffect

Registered: 05/28/03
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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: the universe]
    #1946512 - 09/23/03 11:38 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

You can start by writing letters to your state Senators and your local rep. If you don't know who they are or how to get in touch with them, then go here:


Put in your zip code in the first box you see and it'll find your senators and your house rep. Put thier phone #s in your speed dial and their email addys in your Outlook. Bug them. Write them weekly about whatever new news concerns you. Call their offices when you find out that a vote is coming up and urge them to vote against the Patriot Act, against furthering the drug war, against or for whatever you feel strongly about.

It's one of the greatest avenues of communication we have with our direct representatives.

Please use it!

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.
  --  Howard Zinn

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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1947091 - 09/24/03 06:02 AM (20 years, 6 months ago)

:thumbup: :thumbup:

That was the greatest thing I've read in a long time. It gives me hope and strength.

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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1947445 - 09/24/03 10:05 AM (20 years, 6 months ago)

Excellent.  :thumbup: 

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Ganja Goddess

Registered: 02/12/99
Posts: 1,617
Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1948025 - 09/24/03 01:05 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

On a side note,

If you'd ever like to speak with William Rivers Pitt personally, or see additional off the cuff remarks by him on a plethora of subjects.. he is an active poster and friend on DemocraticUnderground.com.  A great guy and definately not a tinfoil hat wearer :smile:


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 User Gallery

Registered: 11/08/02
Posts: 32,665
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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1948293 - 09/24/03 02:42 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

I feel all warm and fuzzy...

All I know is The Growery is a place where losers who get banned here go.

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Chill the FuckOut!
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Registered: 10/10/02
Posts: 27,301
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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: afoaf]
    #1948434 - 09/24/03 03:31 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)


afoaf said:
I feel all warm and fuzzy...

You rolling? Man, it's been a while since I've done ecstacy...


"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."--Voltaire

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Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: silversoul7]
    #1948985 - 09/24/03 05:58 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

oh, yeah, that too.... :grin:

All I know is The Growery is a place where losers who get banned here go.

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The Duk Abides

Registered: 05/16/03
Posts: 94,392
Loc: Earthfarm 1 Flag
Re: A Patriot Speaks About The 'Patriot' Act [Re: Autonomous]
    #1948988 - 09/24/03 05:59 PM (20 years, 6 months ago)

Hear, hear! Thank you for sharing that! :laugh: 

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