The USA PATRIOT Act undermines American freedom

“Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master.” —George Washington

On Oct. 25, 2001, the Senate voted 98-1 to pass H.R. 3162, a law otherwise known as the USA PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act gives the government wide-reaching authority to investigate, capture and prosecute suspected terrorists and their financial supporters.

The ACLU and others have been calling for the demise of the PATRIOT Act almost since its inception. The rationale, as I understand it, is that the PATRIOT Act allows the nanny state to wrongfully infringe upon our civil liberties under the guise of “safety.”

This is, perhaps, the first time I’ve seen nanny-state advocates give a rip about the government’s infringement upon our civil liberties. So it’s my belief that the loons only want to eliminate the PATRIOT Act because President Bush wants to keep it. But then, as they say, politics makes strange bedfellows.

If you were one of the fortunate many to have been driving along South McCarran Boulevard between Lakeside Drive and Talbot Lane a short time ago, you would have received a first-hand look at the nanny state in action—with nary a whisper from the ACLU.

I refer to the Reno Police Department’s “Click It or Ticket” traffic-safety checkpoint. That is where many Renoites were systematically detained by our venerable police department, also under the guise of “safety.”

You’ve probably caught the commercials on television. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—an office within the U.S. Department of Transportation—has been touting its annual campaign to get us to buckle up under the “Click It or Ticket” program. States receive federal subsidies to ticket drivers if they or their passengers are not buckled up—which is exactly what the RPD was doing.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal:

• 4,638 cars passed through the checkpoint.

• 36 people were cited for not wearing a safety belt.

• 2 drivers were cited for having a child passenger improperly restrained in their vehicle.

• 3 citations were issued for a driver’s license being required.

• 3 citations were issued for insurance being required.

• 2 citations were issued for an unregistered vehicle.

Of course, if this were about saving lives, the police would have simply issued warnings to the aforementioned 46 citation recipients. So let’s be honest: It’s about the money.

The state of Maryland—one of 20 states where seatbelt usage is a primary enforcement law—was so eager to jump onto the “safety” bandwagon that it equipped its officers with night-vision goggles. (These would be the same ones used by our servicemen in Iraq.) State troopers there bagged 44 drivers traveling unbuckled under the cover of darkness in just one night.

And yet, whether it’s about money or saving lives, where exactly are the ACLU and the anti-Bush, civil-rights crowd? Apparently traffic “safety stops"—where ordinary citizens can be detained without reasonable suspicion that they’ve committed any crime—are way cool. But if the government wants to look for terrorists, the PATRIOT Act crosses the line? Seems a little hypocritical to me.

Whether it’s seatbelt checks, DUI checks or terrorist checks, the nanny state goes too far. Actually, “nanny state” sounds too innocuous, too much like Mary Poppins. This more appropriately should be called the “intruder state.” And it’s eroding our liberties, strangling our self-reliance and suffocating our freedoms.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who value safety and security over freedom deserve neither.”