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Patriot Act

October 26, 2003

Are We Less Free? Civil Liberties on the Second Anniversary of the PATRIOT Act
Guest: Republican Congressman Bob Barr
Exactly two years ago — on October 26, 2001 — the President signed into law the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, known by its carefully-designed acronym as the USA-PATRIOT Act.

This law, requested by Attorney General John Ashcroft, ostensibly to fight against terrorism, gave the U.S. Justice Department a laundry list of capabilities that it had sought for years to spy on Americans. I worked as a lawyer at that time for a high-ranking Democratic Member of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee, and, at his request, I wrote about five pages of the 200-page law (which this Congressman eventually voted against).
What does the PATRIOT Act do? How has it been used?
More generally, how has the Bush Administration restricted American freedoms following the September 11th terrorist attacks?
Is it constitutional to imprison American citizens for an unlimited period of time without trial, charges, or even access to a lawyer?
What about the other Bush Administration proposals to extend the PATRIOT Act or to set up the Total Information Awareness program — a program similar to that in East Germany and other Communist countries to encourage American citizens to spy on each other and to allow the government to develop files on each of us?
In sum, is it worthwhile to restrict civil liberties if this will reduce terrorist attacks? Or is this a false choice?
My guests were former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr and Greg Nojeim, Deputy Director of the Washington Office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
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