A problem with fighting terror

Brad Summerhill is a volunteer spokesperson for NCDPA and a contributing writer to the Reno News & Review.

As Americans die in Iraq, there will be a tendency to ignore happenings in the homeland. Many of us, not necessarily due to apathy, avoid debating or discussing issues that could divide us. No one wants “another Vietnam,” either at home or abroad. Instead, we step aside to let history pass, never questioning what our inaction today means for America tomorrow.

One victim of the War on Terror may have been, unfortunately, the rule of law, which is the cornerstone of democracy. Many U.S. residents arrested in sweeps following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks still have not surfaced. Based on what evidence is available, American citizens or resident aliens have been detained without legal representation and without charges being brought against them.

My vagueness on this matter is only tenable in print because of the ironclad secrecy of the Department of Justice. Congress itself has requested information and been denied; I’m not likely to have reliable numbers.

I, too, would like to see our abstract opponent “Terror” defeated, but terrorists have won an important victory when we warp the rules of our legal system in an effort to protect ourselves. Osama bin Laden aimed to destroy Western democratic institutions. I fear that federal efforts to combat terrorism have sometimes aided his cause.

The USA PATRIOT Act and related legislation contain serious flaws in the form of unconstitutional provisions. For example, the legal doctrine of “probable cause” has been replaced in numerous circumstances with the nebulous idea of “reasonable suspicion.” Nearly everyone, including supporters of the law, agrees this is a problem. Already 295 communities, including New York City itself, have passed resolutions opposing the unconstitutional provisions of USA PATRIOT. A federal court ruled that a portion of the law illegally restricts free speech. While the majority of the act is benign or beneficial, the law contains serious flaws that must be corrected.

On Monday, May 3, at 6 p.m. in Reno City Council Chambers (at Center and Liberty), UNR professor Rich Siegel will address specific flaws in this sweeping legislation. The Nevada Campaign to Defeat the Patriot Act (NCDPA) welcomes all voices to its Town Hall Meeting and urges residents to attend. NCDPA will rally its sponsors to bring this issue to the attention of local council members and commissioners. Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County ought to pass resolutions that support national security efforts while decrying the clear violations of guaranteed constitutional protections.

Your voice is crucial! NCDPA will show you how to make a difference now, with minimal individual effort. Incredibly, this is an issue that has brought together right, left and center. Please come out to witness a unique Town Hall event where patriots from across the political spectrum speak out on one of the most important domestic issues of our time.