Agents for change? Not really.
The Patriot Act doesn’t strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement with extraordinary abilities and protecting our constitutional freedoms. There were enough laws already on the books to protect us. Recent inquiries into the failures of the security that was in place at the time of 9/11 point toward inefficient use of what was available.
Cloaked in secrecy, the Patriot Act was driven by the fear that citizens of a country can’t be trusted and should be spied upon. The attorney general now has broad, sweeping powers to spy on and detain people in the name of national security and to do it based on suspicion rather than on evidence evaluated by a judge.
It actually scares me to think that John Ashcroft decides whose phones will be tapped, whose financial records will be reviewed and whose library records will be scrutinized. They’ve even made it illegal for librarians to protest this unnecessary invasion. I don’t know if I’m reading Franz Kafka or Catch-22.
So, any chance we get to take a closer look at the feds and what they’re up to is something we’re interested in. The FBI is notorious in news-media circles for putting up a wall whenever journalists ask questions (that is, unless the FBI wants information), so we sent writer Harmon Leon to the FBI’s Media Day to investigate (see “I spy on the FBI”). As we assumed, the federal agents were more interested in telling us what we already knew about what they do. Everything else is classified … by Ashcroft.