For the record

Bob Tregilus is acting chair of the Nevada Campaign to Defeat the Patriot Act. More information can be found at

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
—Thomas Jefferson

I’m unsure if this is amusing or lamentable, but you can look forward to the reintroduction of the Flag Desecration Amendment to the Senate. While launching a massive sixth effort to protect the flag from a nonexistent national crisis, the president and Congress were tripping over each other to be the first to desecrate the Constitution by signing the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill.

There have been more than 300,000 PATRIOT Act civil liberties abuses. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) recently said there were none. I doubt Brandon Mayfield, Lynne Stewart, Sami Al-Hussayen, Tariq Ramadan and Dora Maria Tellez would agree with his statement. Neither would the 300,000 Las Vegas visitors and residents whose Fourth Amendment protections were violated by a 2003 FBI information sweep.

Four federal courts have ruled PATRIOT Act provisions 505 and 805 unconstitutional. Both provisions began as permanent parts of the PATRIOT Act. Hence, Sensenbrenner’s sleight-of-hand when he brazenly asserted, “[N]o federal court has declared unconstitutional any of the PATRIOT Act provisions Congress is renewing.”

However, in ACLU v. Ashcroft, section 505 was found in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments. In Humanitarian Law Project v. Ashcroft, section 805 was found void for vagueness and in violation of the Constitution—and it was denying aid to tsunami victims!

Recently, we learned that the president has been circumventing the already problematic rubber-stamp-that-warrant FISA court. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 was, in part, Congress’ response to the Church Committee’s report on the atrocities committed under the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO. An out-of-control federal intelligence bureaucracy (there was no court oversight at the time) was spying on Americans, fabricating evidence to imprison dissenters, planting false media stories, infiltrating and instigating violence between opposing groups, and paying informants to carry out assaults—and murders!

FISA established the secret court that the president has now deemed too burdensome for his clandestine investigations of Americans.

I wonder if neo-conservatives would favor the PATRIOT Act and related powers if the other side were in charge? Envision an Attorney General Hillary Clinton wielding the PATRIOT Act as she goes after gun owners and anti-abortion groups. We need only to reflect upon our nation’s founding documents to recall they were crafted to check government power, to protect the innocent from abuse.